The Taliban continues to make strong gains in northern Afghanistan, seizing the cities of Falzabad and Baghlan. Those cities make for nine provincial capitals that have fallen to the Taliban in just the past week.
The Taliban began pushing into Lashkar Gah a couple of weeks ago, and over the past weekend captured five capitals in short order, taking Sherbergen, Sar-e Pul, Zaranj, Taloqan, and even the major city of Kunduz. Monday, Aybak fell without a fight, and Tuesday Pul-e Khumri and Farah also fell. Several more cities are being contested.
There’s that, and there’s Taliban consolidation in the already captured cities. What’s really looming large at this point is the possibility that the national capital of Kabul is more vulnerable than officials care to admit.
The Ghani government has rejected the idea of Kabul being at risk, and the US had been right there with them on that narrative. A week of losses has the US intelligence assessment changing, and officials believe Kabul could fall in the next 30-90 days.
US officials are emphasizing the need to consolidate their defenses around what they can save, and prioritizing what they can try to defend or retake with increasingly limited capabilities.
Which sounds good, but the way things are going is making an outright military defeat not only possible, but in the absence of a deal to end the fighting, downright probable.
There’ve been efforts to get peace talks going, or ceasefires. So far, the regime doesn’t seem willing to make concessions to satisfy the Taliban. Given the alternative is losing Kabul, that might be where they really need to rethink their strategy.