September 19, 2021

Afghanistan: the head of the American troops withdraws, the Taliban continue their advance

The head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Austin Scott Miller, left office on Monday, July 12, as part of the final withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. According to a local correspondent for Agence France-Presse, the Taliban are steadily gaining ground there.

During a ceremony at the ultra-fortified HQ of foreign forces in Kabul, General Miller, who had commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan since September 2018, handed over his command to General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command (Centcom), based in Florida and responsible for US military activities in 20 countries in the Middle East and Central and South Asia, including Afghanistan.

>> To read: The Taliban claim to control 85% of Afghan territory

This change of command is one of the last symbolic gestures before the final departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan, which is supposed to be completed by the end of August.

This withdrawal is already 90% effective for the US military. It will put an end to 20 years of military intervention by a coalition of NATO countries, led by the United States and which entered Afghanistan in October 2001, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Advance of the Taliban

He intervened in the midst of the Taliban’s all-out offensive, launched in May after the start of the withdrawal of foreign troops. The Taliban thus managed to seize large portions of the territory in the face of an Afghan army which, now deprived of crucial American air support, offered little resistance.

The insurgents in particular took control of many rural districts and key border posts – with Iran, Turkmenistan or Tajikistan. The Afghan army mainly retains control of large towns and major highways.

>> To see: American withdrawal from Afghanistan: the Taliban in force?

Several districts in provinces neighboring Kabul have recently fallen into the hands of the Taliban, raising fears that they will soon attack the capital or its airport, the only exit route for foreign nationals from the city.

On Monday, fighting continued in several provinces, including those southern Kandahar – cradle and historic stronghold of the Taliban -, Helmand and Nimroz.