Taliban claims to favour ‘settlement’. Can it be trusted?

The Taliban leadership has reiterated that they want a “political settlement” to the Afghan conflict, but the swift military gains made by the group has alarmed experts and residents, who say they intend to capture power militarily.

Earlier this week, a top US military general issued a stern warning about the trajectory of the Afghan war a month before the complete withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said on Wednesday the Taliban has “strategic momentum”. He did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover.

At a news conference, Milley said the group has been “putting pressure on the outskirts” of the capitals of half of the nation’s 34 provinces.

Given the size of provinces like Kandahar, Helmand and Herat, both physically and in terms of population, any Taliban advance in these areas is seen as a boon to the group.

Military battles in these provinces also pose considerable risk to civilian lives.

 

The Taliban creeping closer to urban centres and key commercial hubs has forced the government to overhaul its war strategy. Its new focus is to safeguard city centres, border crossings and crucial infrastructure, according to media reports.

Washington, which has already withdrawn 95 percent of its troops from the country, has carried out air raids in recent days to support government forces.

Pashtana Durrani, an education advocate based in the city of Kandahar, says in recent weeks the group has made it very clear that they have every intention of taking Kandahar, which “is a highly valuable city, both in terms of symbolism and finances”.

The Taliban now has access to another key dry port and the customs revenue after they captured the district of Spin Boldak.

“If you hold Spin Boldak, you hold the money,” said Durrani.

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