KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Afghanistan’s interior minister said Saturday that Afghan security forces can stand their ground even if US troops withdraw, defying a warning from the United States that predicts that a withdrawal would yield quick territorial gains for US troops. Taliban.
Masoud Andarabi’s comments in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press were the government’s first reaction to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s warning, issued in a harshly worded letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the end of last week.
In the letter pressuring Ghani to step up efforts to make peace with the Taliban, Blinken said: “I am concerned that the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban may make rapid territorial gains” after the US military’s withdrawal.
Andarabi said the Afghan National Security Forces could control the territory, but would likely suffer heavy losses trying to control remote checkpoints without US air support.
“The Afghan security forces are fully capable of defending the capital and the cities and territories in which we are present at the moment,” he said. “We believe that the Afghan security forces this year have shown the Taliban that they will not be able to gain territory.”
While the Taliban have not attacked US or NATO forces as a condition of the deal, the Afghan national security forces have faced some devastating attacks.
Interviewed at the heavily fortified Interior Ministry, Andarabi also repeated his government’s warning against a hasty US withdrawal from the war-torn country, saying that the Taliban’s ties to al-Qaida remain intact and that a swift withdrawal would worsen. global efforts against terrorism.
He said the Afghan National Security Forces backed by US aid so far have put a stop to terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, including the local Islamic State affiliate.
A “hasty uncalculated withdrawal could certainly provide an opportunity for these terrorists … to threaten the world,” he said from inside the compound, protected by concrete walls, barbed wire and a phalanx of security guards.
The warning comes as Washington is reviewing a deal the Trump administration reached with the Taliban more than a year ago that calls for the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US troops by May 1.
That deal also requires the Taliban to sever ties with terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida. US officials have previously said some progress has been seen, but more is needed, without elaborating.
No decisions have been made on the review, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is trying to push forward a stalled peace process between the government and the Taliban armed opposition, has warned the President of Afghanistan that all options remain. are on the table and you should. intensify peacekeeping efforts.
Since the United States signed the agreement with the Taliban, violence has exploded, and poverty and high unemployment increase crime. Despite billions of dollars in international aid to Afghanistan since the collapse of the Taliban government in 2001, 72% of the 37 million Afghans live below the poverty line, and survive on $ 1.90 or less. up to date. Unemployment is around 30 percent.
Residents of the Afghan capital Kabul are terrified of rampant crime, bombings and assassinations, and complain bitterly about security breaches.
Andarabi sympathizes with citizen complaints, but said that nearly 70 percent of Afghanistan’s police force is fighting the Taliban, eroding efforts to maintain law and order. Every day, the police face more than 100 attacks by the Taliban across the country, he added.
Even the United Nations Security Council has expressed concern over targeted killings, targeting civil society activists, journalists, lawyers and judges. The Islamic State has held itself responsible for many, but the Taliban and the government blame each other for the increase in attacks.
At a press conference on Friday, the UN Security Council “called for an immediate end to these targeted attacks and highlighted the urgent and imperative need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Andarabi said some progress had been made to stop the violence in the last month, with more than 400 arrests.
But he stressed that Afghanistan still very much needs the continued support of the international community, including the United States and NATO, both in times of war and peace.
It will take, for example, a great effort to reintegrate into a peacetime society the tens of thousands of gunmen who roam the country, regardless of which faction they come from, he said. Police are facing a daunting anti-narcotics battle in a country that produces more than 4,000 tons of opium – the raw material used to make heroin – more than all other opium-producing countries combined. The peace, Andarabi said, would free the police to fight the war on drugs that is also fueling the rising crime rate in Afghanistan.