Taliban militants are retaking lost ground as the Biden administration pulls U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, taking over dozens of posts and bases and casting out hundreds of Afghan officials.
The Taliban, designated a terror group by the U.S. State Department, has led an insurgency against the U.S.-backed Afghan government for roughly two decades since United States forces drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan in 2001. Taliban, Afghan, and U.S. forces have been locked in conflict ever since, making the Afghan War the longest war in United States history.
President Joe Biden announced in April that he was pulling American troops out of Afghanistan and aims to have the process completed by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terror attack that cost the lives of more than 3,000 Americans and precipitated the nearly two-decade war in Afghanistan. As U.S. troops begin to pack up and move out of the region, Taliban forces are moving into the vacuum and overpowering demoralized Afghan forces, according to The New York Times.
The Taliban conquest has been largely bloodless. The terror group starts with using an envoy, usually a local elder or official, to visit an Afghan outpost or camp. The Taliban’s message is simple and offers the local Afghan forces the chance to surrender or fight until they’re overrun. The tactic is often successful. As the Times reports:
Since May 1, at least 26 outposts and bases in just four provinces — Laghman, Baghlan, Wardak and Ghazni — have surrendered after such negotiations, according to village elders and government officials. With morale diving as American troops leave, and the Taliban seizing on each surrender as a propaganda victory, each collapse feeds the next in the Afghan countryside.
Among the negotiated surrenders were four district centers, which house local governors, police and intelligence chiefs — effectively handing the government facilities to Taliban control and scattering the officials there, at least temporarily.
The Taliban have negotiated Afghan troop surrenders in the past, but never at the scale and pace of the base collapses this month in the four provinces extending east, north and west of Kabul. The tactic has removed hundreds of government forces from the battlefield, secured strategic territory and reaped weapons, ammunition and vehicles for the Taliban — often without firing a shot.
Last year, then-President Donald Trump attempted to ink a deal with NATO forces and the Taliban to evacuate American forces from Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban would have to abide by the terms of the agreement or risk retaliation by the United States. Trump committed to a full troop withdrawal within 14 months in February 2020 if the agreement was kept.
Biden missed Trump’s deadline after announcing he was renegotiating the deal in March, but Biden committed to the full withdrawal of American troops nonetheless.