An audacious and advancing Taliban on Saturday (August 14) warned India against its military presence in war-torn Afghanistan, saying though the outfit won’t target any embassy or diplomat, it is against any military role of a foreign country.
Speaking to ANI, Qatar-based spokesperson for Taliban Suhail Shaheen said: “What do you mean by military role? If they come to Afghanistan militarily and have their presence, I think that will not be good for them. They have seen the fate of military presence in Afghanistan of other countries. So it is an open book for them. And about their help to the Afghan people or national projects, I think that is something which is appreciated.”
“We appreciate everything that has been done for the people of Afghanistan like dams, national projects, infrastructure and anything that is for the development of Afghanistan, for its reconstruction, for economic prosperity and for the people of Afghanistan,” Shaheen said.
Fearing an escalation of violence, many countries including India and the United States have evacuated staff from consulates located in provinces that had fallen under the Taliban. Many countries have cut the number of staff even as the Taliban said that the diplomatic community will not be targeted.
India has been assisting Afghanistan in capacity building, whether it is parliament, schools, roads or dams. India has infused more than USD 2 billion in assistance to Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s “caution” came amid reports of Indian military aid to the besieged Ashraf Ghani government, which received the Indian “gift” of four attack helicopters in 2015 and small-arms supply in the intervening years.
Kandahar radio station renamed
The resurgent group on August 14 captured Logar province, located less than 80 km south of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, media reports said, quoting a provincial lawmaker. The insurgents also took over the main radio station in Kandahar and renamed it the Voice of Sharia, or Islamic law.
In a video released by the group, an unnamed insurgent announced the takeover and said that it would be used to broadcast news and recite the Quran. Music will no longer be allowed to be played on it.
As the Taliban tightened their territorial stranglehold around Kabul, refugees from the terror group’s relentless offensive flooded the capital and US Marines returned to oversee emergency evacuations from Afghanistan.
With the country’s second and third-largest cities having fallen into Taliban hands, Kabul has effectively become a besieged, last-stand for government forces who have offered little or no resistance elsewhere.
Terror group’s fighters are now camped just 50 km away, leaving the United States and other countries scrambling to airlift their nationals out of Kabul ahead of a feared all-out assault.
Heavy fighting was also reported around Mazar-i-Sharif, an isolated holdout in the north where warlord and former vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum had gathered his virulently anti-Taliban militia.
The only other cities of any significance not to be taken yet were Jalalabad, Gardez and Khost — Pashtun-dominated and unlikely to offer much resistance now.
In Kabul, US embassy staff were ordered to begin shredding and burning sensitive material, as the first American troops from a planned 3,000-strong re-deployment started arriving to secure the airport and oversee evacuations.
Fear rules supreme
For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge there in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of confusion and fear, AFP reported.
Muzhda, 35, a single woman who arrived in the capital with her two sisters after fleeing nearby Parwan, said she was terrified for the future. “I am crying day and night,” she said.
“I have turned down marriage proposals in the past… If the Taliban come and force me to marry, I will commit suicide.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed” by accounts of poor treatment of women in areas seized by the Taliban, who imposed an ultra-austere brand of Islam on Afghanistan during their 1996-2001 rule.
“It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away,” Guterres said.
The scale and speed of the Taliban advance have shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks nearly 20 years ago.
(With Agency inputs)