Taliban to Join Afghan Government in Weeks, Ex-General Says
(Bloomberg) -- Afghanistan will be under a new unity government that includes the Taliban “in a matter of weeks” unless international aid to the country’s besieged military is increased dramatically, a former senior Pentagon official predicted Friday.
The Taliban is pursuing a “blitzkrieg” strategy as U.S. forces move to complete their withdrawal from the country by Aug. 31, retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle Eastern policy, said in an interview Friday on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power With David Westin.”
“It’s only a matter of time until they get to the gates of Kabul,” Kimmitt, who also served as assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said of the fundamentalist group. Although that has led to predictions that the Taliban will take over the capital city by force, Kimmitt said the current government is likely to step down in favor of a national unity government. “At that point, the Taliban have no reason to take Kabul militarily if they have won it politically,” he said.
U.S. officials have said they would take action after the troop departure if the Taliban lets terrorist organizations return to using Afghanistan as a safe haven, as they did before the U.S. invaded in 2001 and ousted the Taliban. Kimmitt said that al-Qaeda and Islamic State both have established “pockets” across the country and that if either is able to form a large training base or develop enough support “they could do what they’ve done before.”
Retired Marine Corps Major General Arnold Punaro told Westin in an interview on Bloomberg Radio that it’s “just a question of when” the Taliban will create an Islamic state in Afghanistan like the one they established before the U.S. invasion. He said the Taliban’s willingness to use “guerrilla-type tactics” meant all the money the U.S. had spent on the Afghan army had amounted to little.
“It’s clear they don’t have the will to fight,” said Punaro, a former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee. “You can give them the best equipment and the best training, but if a unit doesn’t have the will to fight they just aren’t going to be successful. Most of the people who are very familiar with that situation have felt this was going to be the ultimate outcome.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday that it appears the Taliban is “trying to get Kabul isolated” but that the capital city wasn’t under “imminent threat.” He said the speed at which the Taliban has taken over provincial capitals is “deeply concerning.” The first of 3,000 troops being brought in to help evacuate many of the employees from the U.S. embassy in Kabul have arrived, he said.
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