Aug 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. envoy warns Taliban of global cutoff if Afghanistan taken by force

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, in Washington, D.C., in May 2021.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, in Washington, D.C., in May. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States' special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, warned the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday that any government formed by force will not be recognized internationally, according to AP.

Why it matters: Nine out of 34 Afghan provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban in recent days as the U.S. military withdraws, raising fears that the Afghan military will be unable to hold off the insurgent group.

  • Khalilzad and the Biden administration are attempting to pressure the Taliban to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government to stabilize the country and prevent further violence and civilian causalities.
  • The capitals of Farah, Baghlan and Badakhshan provinces fell to the Taliban on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

The big picture: Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar called for sanctions against Taliban leadership in response to the provincial seizures, saying they violated commitments that the group gave to the U.S. in 2020.

  • “The world community should come together to stop Taliban attacks on cities. This is a threat to international peace and security, not just a threat to Afghanistan,” Atmar told the Wall Street Journal.
  • “Attacks on cities will have destabilizing consequences for the region and the international community—not only by sending refugees but also with the arrival of more foreign fighters to Afghanistan, which will pave the ground for other terrorist groups to come.”

The U.S. intelligence community has warned that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as next year as the Taliban's battlefield offensive grows.

  • President Biden has called those assessments "wrong," saying the Afghan military outnumbers the Taliban and is better equipped.
  • On Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Afghan military would need to halt the Taliban's encroachment.
    • “These are their military forces, these are their provincial capitals, their people to defend and it’s really going to come down to the leadership that they’re willing to exude here at this particular moment,” he said.

Go deeper: State Department urges U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan

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