More Afghan Cities Fall to Taliban, Leaving Kabul Surrounded

Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani, Joe Biden, during a meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 25, 2021. (Photographer: Pete Marovich/The New York Times/Bloomberg)

More Afghan Cities Fall to Taliban, Leaving Kabul Surrounded


Taliban forces in Afghanistan captured more provincial capitals on Sunday, including the key eastern center of Jalalabad, leaving Kabul isolated as the only major city still under government control.

The U.S. has reportedly started to evacuate its embassy in Kabul on fears that a Taliban assault on the capital, by far Afghanistan’s largest city, may come within days. Helicopters landed at the U.S. compound early Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

President Joe Biden on Saturday boosted the U.S. troop deployment in an attempt to ensure an “orderly and safe drawdown.” The rapid, domino-like fall of Afghanistan’s cities to the fundamentalist forces has ramped up bipartisan criticism of Biden’s exit strategy and shocked may U.S. officials.

Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, is Afghanistan’s sixth largest city. Taliban militants on Sunday also took the provincial capital of Maidan Wardak, a few hours drive west of Kabul.

Biden’s authorization adds about 1,000 U.S. personnel to the deployment of 3,000 Marines and soldiers announced this week and 1,000 troops already at the airport and the embassy in the Afghan capital, according to a defense official.

The goal is “to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance,” the president said in a statement.

Biden, who’s spending the weekend at Camp David, again defended his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after 20 years -- America’s longest war.

“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan -- two Republicans, two Democrats,” Biden said. “I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”

“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, plan to brief members of Congress on Sunday.

Taliban fighters have captured most of Afghanistan with dizzying speed in less than three weeks. The weekend efforts extended their control close to Kabul was well as to remote regions bordering Pakistan.

Taliban forces now hold all of Afghanistan’s border crossings, leaving Kabul airport as the only route out, the AP reported.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised speech on Saturday that regrouping the country’s military was a top priority.

Ghani said he was in talks with world leaders as well as local politicians, but provided few details. He vowed not to abandon what he called the “achievements” of the past 20 years.

‘Political Settlement’

Biden said he has asked Blinken to support Ghani and other Afghan leaders “as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement.” Blinken spoke Saturday with Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah, the State Department said.

Taliban representatives have been warned that any actions putting U.S. personnel at risk “will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”

Most foreign troops have already left and the remainder are set to exit by Aug. 31, as Biden follows through on former President Donald Trump’s promise to wind down the war.

The U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K. and other countries are preparing to pull their diplomats out as the security situation worsens. U.S. embassy staff in Kabul have been told to destroy sensitive material.

Germany’s Air Force will send military transport plans to Kabul on Monday to safely pull German nationals out of the country, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.

”The top priority now is the safety of our embassy staff,” the newspaper cited Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as saying. “We will not risk our people falling into the hands of the Taliban.”

Retired Marine Corps Major General Arnold Punaro told Bloomberg News on Friday 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.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.