The Taliban warns Turkey against extending troops

The Taliban on Tuesday warned Turkey against extending its troop presence in Afghanistan as US-led forces leave the country, insisting the decision was “reprehensible”.

“The decision … is poorly recommended, a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity and of our national interests,” the group said in a statement, days after Ankara agreed with Washington to provide security for Kabul airport when foreign forces leave the next month.

“We believe that foreign forces will remain in our home country of any country under any pretext such as occupation,” the Taliban said.

When foreign forces wind up their withdrawal – to be completed on 31 August – the situation on the ground changes rapidly.

Rebels have swept through much of northern Afghanistan in recent weeks, and the government now has little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must be largely reinforced and delivered by air.

On Tuesday, the head of a Taliban commission overseeing government forces surrendering to the insurgents called on city residents to reach out to them.

“Now that the fighting from mountains and deserts has reached the doors of the cities, the Mujahideen do not want to fight inside the city,” said Amir Khan Muttaqi in a statement tweeted by a Taliban spokesman using another term for the group.

“It’s better … to use any channel to get in touch with our Invitational and Guidance Commission,” he said, adding that this would “prevent their cities from being damaged”.

The strategy is a well-worn one by the Taliban, especially during their first rise to power in the 1990s, cutting off cities and district centers and getting elders to negotiate capitulation.

Fear of withdrawal

The United States ‘top general in Afghanistan withdrew his command on Monday at a ceremony in the capital, the latest symbolic gesture that led to the United States’ longest war coming to an end.

The withdrawal rate – and several offensive initiatives by the Taliban – have raised fears that Afghanistan’s security forces could quickly become overwhelmed, especially without vital US air support.

About 650 US service members are expected to remain in Kabul and guard Washington’s widespread diplomatic association.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that he had agreed with the United States on the “scope” of how to secure the airport in Kabul.

Peace talks between the rebels and the government, which is likely to take place in Doha, have largely erupted and the Taliban now appear to be on the verge of complete military victory.

But claims by the hardline group to control 85 percent of the country are impossible to verify independently, and strongly questioned by the government.

Last week in Moscow, a visiting Taliban delegation said the group now controls more than half of the country’s nearly 400 districts – a claim firmly rejected by Security Force spokesman Ajmal Omar Shinwari.

Still, the situation has worried foreign nations, and on Sunday India became the latest country to evacuate some of its diplomats.

On Monday, Russia announced that it was moving some diplomats to Uzbekistan, while China also evacuated 210 citizens from Afghanistan.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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