With the United States’ hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan minus a politically negotiated settlement between Kabul and the Taliban, the Afghan conflict has entered a crucial phase. Since the beginning of the US and Nato forces withdrawal in May, the security situation is constantly deteriorating. The Taliban’s rapid territorial gains have exposed the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ (ANDSF) inability to defend Afghan territory. As a result, the Taliban’s lightning offensive over the past ten days has taken them beyond their traditional strongholds in the northern and western parts of the country. They now claim to control 90 per cent of Afghan soil. Contrary to their initial commitments, the Taliban have captured most of the 34 provincial capitals, including Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan in the north, which was traditionally an anti-Taliban stronghold. Additionally, over the last month, it has successfully seized most of the 14 official Afghan international border crossings, including six dry ports.
As the Taliban mops up the remains of its total military victory, last-ditch diplomatic efforts to avoid a civil war and find a peaceful settlement have all but ceased. The announcement of the Troika Plus meeting comprising the US, China, Russia and Pakistan on August 11 in Doha had raised some hopes of reviving the moribund intra-Afghan peace talks. However, the uncompromising stands of the Ghani government and the Taliban on one hand and the waning leverage of other participating states on the other meant chances of a breakthrough was limited in the first place.