Kabul (AP) – In their conquest in Afghanistan, the Islamist Taliban took the town of Mazar-i-Sharif on Saturday. The Bundeswehr had its headquarters there until June.
The city’s case was confirmed by a security source and a provincial council of the German news agency.
While the Taliban are already several kilometers from the capital Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani spoke about the situation in a TV speech after a long period of silence. In doing so, he did not respond to speculation that he could step down to pave the way for an agreement with the militant Islamists.
He is aware of the plight and sees it as his “historic task” to prevent innocent people from being killed and the achievements of the past 20 years from being lost, Ghani said on Saturday. He has entered into talks with political leaders in the country and international partners and wants to present results “soon”.
The Taliban will continue their advance into Afghanistan on Saturday: Only about 35 kilometers from Kabul, there was fighting in the morning over Maidan Schar, the capital of Wardak province, said German news agency MP Hamida Akbari. The Taliban already controlled much of the province.
20 of 34 provincial capitals conquered
Since the decision in mid-April to withdraw international troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have conquered large parts of the country. 20 of the 34 provincial capitals are now under their control. Nationally, fighting continued in at least five provinces on Saturday. The militant Islamists managed to take over two small provincial capitals.
Sharana in Paktika province with an estimated 66,000 inhabitants has been handed over to the Taliban without a fight after mediation by the elderly, local authorities have confirmed. Moments later, several local officials confirmed that government officials and security forces had also left Asadabad, the capital of the Kunar province in the east of the country with an estimated 40,000 inhabitants. They wanted to prevent civilian casualties and destruction.
Earlier, Herat and Kandahar, the third and second largest cities in the country, fell into the hands of the Islamists. With Pul-i Alam in Logar province, the Taliban have also captured a provincial capital about 70 kilometers south of Kabul.
Diplomatic personnel leave the country
Meanwhile, Western states are accelerating efforts to bring their own personnel and local Afghan workers to safety from the rapidly advancing Taliban. The US State Department has announced that the planned reinforcement of US troops in Afghanistan with about 3,000 soldiers will take place largely in Kabul by Sunday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said British embassy staff must leave Kabul within days.
According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Germany also wants to reduce embassy staff to the “absolute minimum”. Personnel and local personnel are flown out with two aircraft.
The Bundeswehr has already started preparations for a high-security mission to evacuate Germans and local personnel. According to information from the German news agency, a mandate is being prepared to be adopted by the Bundestag, which has been pressed mainly by military experts in recent days. In the coming week, paratroopers will be deployed from the Rapid Forces Division (DSK), which the Bundeswehr has for this task as part of the National Risk and Crisis Prevention.
An evacuation mission is deemed to have a mandate, because after the NATO mission “Resolute Support” no more basis is given for the previous mandate. It is largely indisputable that this should happen. The broadcaster RTL/ntv also reported on the planned deployment on Saturday.
There are currently more than 100 Germans in Afghanistan, including diplomats and employees of the embassy in Kabul, as well as experts from other ministries and organizations. The exact number of local employees is still unclear. Ministry of Development Cooperation organizations alone currently employ more than 1,000 local workers in Afghanistan.
France wants to offer Afghan local workers and other vulnerable groups of people protection in France in an uncomplicated way. France is one of only three countries to continue to issue visas in Kabul, Elysée circles said Friday evening. Major efforts are being made to make it easier for Afghan artists, journalists and human rights activists to access France. Between May and July, 625 local Afghan workers and their families had already been detained in France.
After the failure of the mission in Afghanistan, former NATO General Hans-Lothar Domröse calls for a reconsideration of the approach to military assignments outside Europe. “We will have to rethink our whole concept of ‘train assist advisor’ (training, support, advice) and, to be honest, we have to ask the question: does it work outside of Europe? Apparently not,” the army general said in NDR Info on Saturday. When broadcasting abroad, one should set clear political goals in advance, show long perseverance – or not go there.
The West has “trained 350,000 security forces in Afghanistan and they are reasonably well equipped. More helicopters fly with it than with the Bundeswehr. So: you didn’t use it, and why not?” There is a lack of morale and loyalty, Domröse said. The soldiers “don’t have what for”.