The Taliban captured the strategic border crossing between Spin Boldak at the border and Pakistan on Wednesday, and continued to make big gains since foreign forces intensified their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry denied that the rebels had taken the area even when social media was flooded with images of Taliban fighters relaxing in the border town.
The residents also told AFP that it was in the hands of the Taliban.
Spin Boldak is the latest in a series of border crossings and dry ports seized by the Taliban in recent weeks, with insurgents seeking to stifle much-needed government revenue in Kabul while filling their own coffers.
When Kabul’s grip on the country seemed to loosen further, former US President George W. Bush defeated current White House existing Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all troops.
“I am afraid that Afghan women and girls will suffer vague injuries … They will be left to be slaughtered by these very brutal people and it will break my heart,” he told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Asked if he thought the withdrawal was a mistake, Bush replied: “Yes, I think so.”
It was his administration that launched the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that overthrew the Taliban government following the 9/11 attacks on US soil by al-Qaeda militaries.
Together with his top security advisers, Bush was later accused of a series of miscalculations in Afghanistan that led to a costly 20-year occupation and the revival of the Taliban movement.
The seizure of the border crossing follows days of fierce fighting over Kandahar province, where the government was forced to deploy commando fighters to prevent the fall of the provincial capital even as the rebels dropped closer to the border.
In a statement, rebellious spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid assured traders and residents there that their “safety is guaranteed”.
But Afghan officials insisted they were still in control.
“The terrorist Taliban had some movements near the border area … The security forces have rejected the attack,” Tareq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told AFP.
Residents, however, questioned the government’s claims.
“I went to my store this morning and saw that the Taliban are everywhere. They are in the bazaar, in the police headquarters and in adapted areas. I can also hear the sound of fighting nearby,” said Raz Mohammad, a business owner working near the border.
The border crossing is one of the most strategically valuable for the Taliban.
It provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province – where the top rebel leadership has been based for decades – along with an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to help strengthen their ranks.
A few hours after the crossing, an AFP reporter on the Pakistani side saw about 150 Taliban fighters riding motorcycles and waving rebellious flags, demanding that they cross to Afghanistan.
Balochistan is a favorite destination for warriors who regularly go for medical treatment and host many of their families.
A major highway leading from the border connects Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi and its vast port on the Arabian Sea, which is considered a pinch for Afghanistan’s billion-dollar heroin trade that has provided a major source of revenue for the Taliban’s coffers over the years. .
‘What it is’
With the United States just a few weeks away from withdrawing its last troops, the Taliban have swept through much of the country, and the government now has little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that largely have to be delivered by air.
The sheer speed and scale of the insurgency’s multifaceted offensive has raised fears of overwhelming Afghan security forces.
The yawning catastrophe has also triggered a diplomatic freedom for all with countries dealing with debt and throwing jabs at the many political mistakes made in Afghanistan over the years.
“Russia has been talking for several years about developing such a situation. To call a spade a spade, we foresaw this much earlier,” said the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, in an interview with the Russian news agency RIA.
In another sign, Western governments quickly re-evaluated their Afghanistan policy, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain was ready to work with the Taliban if it enters a power-sharing government.
“No matter what government it is today, provided it follows certain international standards, the British government will engage in it,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“All peace processes require you to agree with the enemy. Sometimes that’s what it is.”