Afghan Civilians Take up Arms as US-Led Forces Leave
U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO said in mid-April they would pull out the roughly 10,000 foreign troops still in Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York that prompted the mission.
The United Nations envoy for Afghanistan said this week the Taliban had taken more than 50 of 370 districts and was positioned to control provincial capitals as the country looked increasingly unstable as foreign military support ended.
Armed mainly with old assault rifles, pistols and grenade launchers, men have joined local shopkeepers and traders as part of a loosely-formed Public Uprising Force trying to reclaim some of those areas.
Ajmal Omar Shinwari, a spokesman for the Afghan defence and security forces, said Afghans keen to take up arms against the Taliban were being absorbed intro the structure of territorial army forces.
But some political analysts warn of the growing risk of a return to civil war as more groups took up arms.
Faced with rising violence, President Ashraf Ghani visited Washington in June to meet Biden, who pledged U.S. support to Afghanistan but said Afghans must decide their own future.
Talks to try and find a political settlement in Afghanistan have stalled, although the head of the Afghan peace council has said they should not be abandoned despite the surge in Taliban attacks.