Taliban Seize Key Afghan City as Biden Speeds Deployment

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With the illness of Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad, the insurgents appeared to beryllium connected the verge of a afloat subject takeover.

President Biden astatine  the White House past  month. In a connection    connected  Saturday, helium  defended his determination  to permission  Afghanistan aft  2  decades of war.
Credit...Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Helene CooperChristina Goldbaum

Published Aug. 14, 2021Updated Aug. 16, 2021, 8:21 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — With the Afghan authorities collapsing to a surging Taliban, President Biden sought to task an representation of resoluteness connected Saturday, speeding the deployment of an further 1,000 troops to Afghanistan arsenic helium announced a bid of steps that helium said would support American interests.

The announcement came hours aft the Taliban seized the past large metropolis successful bluish Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif, marking the implicit nonaccomplishment of the country’s northbound arsenic they appeared connected the verge of a afloat subject takeover. A time earlier, 2 cardinal cities successful confederate and occidental Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

On Sunday, the insurgents took Jalalabad, the superior of Nangarhar Province successful the east. With that, they fundamentally encircled the capital, Kabul, which is present the lone large metropolis near nether authorities control.

Mr. Biden’s connection connected Saturday did small beyond asserting what the medication has already been doing: proclaiming enactment for the authorities of Afghanistan, informing the Taliban not to onslaught American troops and undertaking the intensive process of giving peculiar migrant visas to fleeing Afghans who worked for the United States implicit the past 20 years.

The president defended his determination to permission the state aft 2 decades of war, a departure that has led to the near-disintegration of the Afghan military.

He besides sought to dispersed the blame, accusing President Donald J. Trump of boxing him successful by agreeing to a May 1 deadline to retreat each American troops from the country.

“I faced a prime — travel done connected the deal, with a little hold to get our forces and our allies’ forces retired safely, oregon ramp up our beingness and nonstop much American troops to combat erstwhile again successful different country’s civilian conflict,” helium said.

He added: “I was the 4th president to preside implicit an American unit beingness successful Afghanistan — 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats. I would not, and volition not, walk this warfare onto a fifth.”

Mr. Trump himself has criticized Mr. Biden’s determination to withdraw; successful reality, some men promised to extremity America’s longest war.

Mr. Biden’s apical nationalist information aides were huddled successful meetings astatine the White House each time Saturday, arsenic an unrelenting watercourse of atrocious quality came successful from Afghanistan. The president, successful his statement, directed his caput of state, Antony J. Blinken, to enactment President Ashraf Ghani and different Afghan leaders arsenic “they question to forestall further bloodshed and prosecute a governmental settlement.” As portion of the effort, Mr. Blinken volition besides interaction apical officials successful the region, the White House said.

An medication authoritative said that the medication would besides scope retired to the Taliban successful the adjacent day. It was unclear whether the outreach would spell further than the informing Mr. Biden reiterated connected Saturday, “that immoderate enactment connected their portion connected the crushed successful Afghanistan that puts U.S. unit oregon our ngo astatine hazard determination volition beryllium met with a swift and beardown U.S. subject response.”

Mr. Biden’s determination connected Saturday to accelerate the deployment of an further 1,000 troops to Afghanistan brings the fig of American troops connected the crushed to 5,000. The Pentagon had announced this week that 3,000 forces would join the 1,000 already successful the state arsenic portion of the effort to evacuate Americans and their allies. In addition, the Pentagon said connected Friday that it would nonstop an further 3,000 from the Army’s 82nd Airborne to Kuwait arsenic a benignant of security policy, truthful they could beryllium successful the portion if needed; the further troops Mr. Biden ordered to Afghanistan connected Saturday were among those bound for Kuwait.

A elder U.S. authoritative said Zalmay Khalilzad, the main American negotiator with the Taliban successful bid talks successful Doha, Qatar, has asked the extremist radical to not participate Kabul until the United States concludes evacuating what could beryllium much than 10,000 American citizens, including Afghan-Americans, embassy unit and translators and different Afghans who person worked with the American government. It was unclear however rapidly the evacuations could beryllium completed oregon if that was adjacent possible.

Taliban officials person countered by asking that the United States cease airstrikes against its fighters arsenic they instrumentality implicit cities crossed Afghanistan.


Credit...Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

As his service has each but collapsed and his government’s power shrinks, Mr. Ghani is facing unit to measurement down. Yet successful a recorded code televised aboriginal Saturday afternoon, helium promised lone to “prevent further instability” and did not resign. With Taliban forces having captured Pul-i-Alam, a provincial superior lone 40 miles from Kabul, Mr. Ghani said helium had begun “extensive consultations astatine location and abroad” and that the results would soon beryllium shared. He said remobilizing Afghanistan’s subject forces was a priority.

Still, helium has small evident enactment astatine home, and thousands of his soldiers were surrendering. Mr. Ghani was not “worth warring for,” Omar Zakhilwal, a erstwhile concern minister, tweeted connected Friday.

With astir of Afghanistan nether the power of the Taliban, and with Kabul 1 of the past bastions held by authorities forces, galore of the city’s residents expressed fatalism and fearfulness astatine the imaginable of their location falling into the hands of the militant group.

The nonaccomplishment of the country’s northbound — erstwhile the bosom of the absorption to the Taliban’s earlier emergence to powerfulness successful 1996 — offered a devastating stroke to morale for a state gripped with panic.

The Taliban seized Mazar-i-Sharif hardly an hr aft breaking done the beforehand lines astatine the city’s edge. Soon after, authorities information forces and militias fled — including those led by the infamous warlords Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Muhammad Noor — efficaciously handing power to the insurgents.

In the precocious 1990s, Mazar-i-Sharif was the tract of pitched battles betwixt the Taliban and bluish militia groups that managed to propulsion backmost the hard-line insurgents earlier the radical took implicit the metropolis successful 1998. The triumph followed infighting and defections among the militias and culminated with the Taliban’s massacre of hundreds of militia fighters who had surrendered.

During the existent Taliban subject campaign, Mazar’s defence was astir wholly reliant connected the reincarnations of immoderate of those precise aforesaid militias that person each but failed to clasp their territory elsewhere successful the north. Some are led by Mr. Dostum, a erstwhile Afghan vice president who has survived the past 40 years of warfare by cutting deals and switching sides.

Others were down Mr. Noor, a longtime powerfulness broker and warlord successful Balkh Province who fought the Soviets successful the 1980s and the Taliban successful the 1990s. During the civilian war, helium was a commandant successful Jamiat-i-Islami, an Islamist enactment successful the country’s north, and helium was a starring fig successful the Northern Alliance that supported the American penetration successful 2001. Shortly afterward, helium became Balkh’s governor, profoundly entrenched arsenic the singular authorization successful the province. He refused to permission his presumption aft Mr. Ghani fired him successful 2017.

Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Christina Goldbaum from Kabul, Afghanistan. Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington, and Najim Rahim and Sharif Hassan from Kabul. Adam Nossiter besides contributed reporting.

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