The Taliban didn’t waste any time in moving right in as U.S. troops pull back. They have set up checkpoints across key parts of Afghanistan that leave major cities increasingly isolated and impede the Afghan government’s ability to govern.
The Washington Post reports that dozens of checkpoints have sprung up on highways leading into Kabul. Most are temporary but there are ten permanent outposts that dot the main north-south highway in the country.
Taliban checkpoints are both a symbolic show of force and a real blow to Afghanistan’s already fragile elected government. The outposts — both temporary and permanent — along major highways frustrate military resupply efforts, stifle the provision of government services and undercut confidence in the country’s elected officials.
The new checkpoints have emerged as Afghanistan enters a pivotal period. NATO troops began drawing down Thursday, according to media reports and an Afghan official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. U.S. forces are set to reach zero by Sept. 11, a deadline originally scheduled for May 1. The Taliban’s encroachment on critical roadways is one of many signs that the group is undiminished after 20 years of war and appears to be pressing for a military victory as foreign military support for Afghan security forces is cut back.
“Pressing for military victory” wasn’t supposed to happen. We had a deal with those terrorists to let us depart in peace. They also promised not to be mean to the Afghan government. Neither promise was worth the goatskin it was printed on.
The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan warned on Saturday it would be a mistake for insurgents to attack foreign troops still present in the country after the passing of a May 1 deadline for withdrawal agreed last year with Taliban militants.
U.S. Army General Scott Miller’s comments followed what a U.S. forces spokesman described as “ineffective indirect fire” at an airfield in Kandahar that had caused no injuries or damage. The Taliban did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether it was involved in the incident.
And just to let the Afghan people know who’s in charge, the Taliban set off a huge truck bomb near the capitol.
On the eve of a symbolic date for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a truck laden with explosives blew up outside a guesthouse south of the capital on Friday night, killing at least 27 people.
If the blast was the work of the Taliban — there was no immediate claim of responsibility, though the Afghan government quickly blamed the insurgents — it would be the most overt signal yet that the deal the Americans reached with the group at Doha in February 2020 is off.
It’s a good thing the U.S. is finally leaving Afghanistan but under these circumstances? Run out of the country by terrorists? Even if that isn’t exactly true, it will become gospel to the masses of ignorant Muslims who believe anything they’re told.
It’s an open question whether the situation on the ground would have improved enough in six months to then begin the withdrawal. And under no circumstances did Biden have to schedule the final pullout for September 11. It only highlights U.S. impotence that we failed in our goal to make Afghanistan a terrorist-free country and leave the people a fighting chance to determine their own destiny.
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