With the last remaining US troops leaving Afghanistan in the coming months, the report compiled by the UN surveillance team charged with tracking security threats in Afghanistan paints a bleak picture of the security outlook. Reading this will be uncomfortable for the Biden administration as it works to end the US military presence in the country.
Biden has promised to withdraw all remaining US forces by September 11 – the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.
According to the report, the two groups “showed no signs of breaking ties,” even though they have tried to temporarily hide their connections, although it notes that the Taliban call this “misinformation.”
The departure of US troops comes with violence in Afghanistan at its highest level in two decades. According to the UN report, 2020 was “the most violent year ever recorded by the UN in Afghanistan”. Security incidents increased by more than 60% in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
The UN team states that the Taliban are responsible for “the vast majority of targeted killings that have become a feature of violence in Afghanistan and were aimed at undermining government capacity and intimidating civil society.” seem.” And it argues that part of the Taliban leadership is not interested in the peace process, adding that “both deputy leaders of the Taliban, Mullah Mohamed Yacoub Omari and Sirajuddin Haqqani, are required to oppose peace talks and support a military solution.” to be notified by the Member States.”
Haqqani is the commander of the Haqqani Network, a powerful semi-autonomous force within the Taliban framework. According to the United Nations, Mullah Yacoub (also known as Yacoub), son of the late Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was appointed as the head of the Taliban’s military commission in May 2020.
UN Monitors assess that “the security situation in Afghanistan remains as tense and challenging as at any time in recent history,” reporting that member states “encouraged the Taliban to sustain attacks for longer periods of time”. While greater freedom of movement has also been exercised. This has allowed the Taliban to scale forces around major provincial capitals and district centres, leaving them ready to launch attacks.”
He says many believe the Taliban are “trying to shape future military operations when levels of foreign troops are no longer able to respond effectively.”
According to the UN report, member states estimate that the Taliban “contest or control an estimated 50 to 70 percent of Afghan territory outside urban centers, while exercising direct control over 57 percent of district administrative centers.”
Asfandyar Mir, a South Asia security analyst at Stanford University, says the Taliban is ready for an attack against the Afghan government. “The Taliban have begun to exert major pressure in the provinces adjacent to Kabul – including worryingly neighboring Lagman, which has seen a lack of sufficient Afghan security forces for the Taliban,” Meir told CNN. “In the south of the country, the Taliban is ready to exert more pressure on the provincial capitals.”
The report assesses that, despite twenty years of war, Taliban numbers remain “strong” and “recruitment remains stagnant” – with estimates of the insurgent group’s fighting strength ranging from 58,000 to 100,000.
On the contrary, the Afghan army is declining. “As of February 2021, the strength of the Afghan forces was approximately 308,000 personnel, which was well below the target strength of 352,000,” the report said.
The UN report noted that “air contributions provided by coalition forces have been an essential support for ground operations; it remains to be seen how the Afghan military will perform without it.”
“The impending international military withdrawal … will challenge Afghan forces by limiting air operations with fewer drones and radar and surveillance capabilities, less military support and artillery, as well as disruptions in training,” notes the UN team.
It also raises concerns that if less disciplined units within the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police begin to collapse or disintegrate, better trained units such as Afghan commandos will have to bear the greater burden of fighting.
According to the UN report, there is no shortage of revenue for the Taliban. In 2020, according to estimates cited by the report, the Taliban earned more than $400 million from the mining sector, and similar revenues from opium poppy crops.
The report also found that “the Taliban has expanded territorial control to extract money from a wide range of public infrastructure, including road construction, telecommunications and road transport.”
With money to spend, the Taliban has invested in more sophisticated weapons. The UN team points to an increase in the use of commercially available drones loaded with explosives for attacks and the use of magnetic improvised explosive devices and suicide vehicle bombs (VBIEDs).
Al Qaeda Connection
President Biden argued in April that the United States’ task in Afghanistan was complete. “We went to Afghanistan to pick up the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. We brought justice to Osama bin Laden and we reduced the terrorist threat of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” the president said.
But the UN report found that a “significant portion” of al Qaeda’s leadership is still believed to be in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region. It said reports of the death of Osama bin Laden’s top adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri have not been confirmed, with one member state reporting that “he is probably alive but too weak to be shown in propaganda.”
While the Taliban “maintain its long-standing practice of denying the presence of foreign terrorist fighters,” UN monitors estimate that there are 8,000 to 10,000 belonging to various terrorist groups in Afghanistan, most of whom are assessed “Minimum tolerated or protected” is carried out. Taliban.”
The watchdog believes the Taliban is trying to gain more control over al-Qaeda, but warns that “it is impossible to assess with confidence whether the Taliban will be trying to gain more control over al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.” will live up to its commitment to suppress future international threats.”
It adds that ties between the Taliban and al-Qaeda “have deepened as a result of personal bonds of marriage and shared partnerships in conflict, which are now strengthened through second-generation ties.”
The UN team also states that according to member states, “Al Qaeda maintains contact with the Taliban, but in an effort to minimize open communication with the Taliban leadership and the Taliban’s diplomatic engagement with the Doha Agreement, Doesn’t jeopardize the situation.”
The UN team stressed that “it will be important for the international community to see any sign of Afghanistan again becoming a destination for extremists with regional and international agendas.”
Asfandyar Mir agrees that al-Qaeda is strongly associated with the Afghan Taliban and supports the Taliban’s strategy of securing a US withdrawal. “I hope he will once again find a safe haven in Afghanistan,” Mir says, although it is unclear whether al-Qaeda will reorganize an international terrorist operation out of Afghanistan.
In the near future the United Nations has warned that the Taliban “may launch attacks on withdrawing forces in another attempt to score propaganda points on the United States.” And its forecast for the long term is disappointing.
The report concludes that the Taliban “seems to continue to strengthen its military position as objective. It believes that it can achieve almost all of its objectives through dialogue or, if necessary, by force.” could.”
Meir agreed, saying: “The Afghan Taliban poses a major threat to the very existence of the Afghan government, which is likely to increase substantially with the complete withdrawal of US forces.”
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