Washington: As US and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan after a long, bloody but unsuccessful military campaign, intense fighting has started between the Taliban and Afghan government forces.
As fierce fighting rages in Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of US and NATO military forces, the Taliban continues to capture territory from the Afghan government forces.
With US military forces scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Taliban is trying to capture as much territory as possible in order to strengthen its position at the negotiating table and stake a strong claim in any future government.
Taliban fighters are capturing the main centers of various rural districts of Afghanistan and have intensified attacks on Afghan forces.
The growing influence of the Taliban has left the US, NATO and neighboring countries worried.
The Taliban has so far taken control of almost half of Afghanistan and even top commanders of the US military have expressed concern.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told during a press conference at the Pentagon, "Out of the country's 419 district centers, 212 districts have been occupied."
General Milley said the Taliban appears to be gaining strategic momentum in the battle to dominate Afghanistan.
"It will be a test of the will and leadership of Afghanistan's security, the government of Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan," he said.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also present in the press conference with General Mille. He said the US military's efforts would not be focused on the Taliban, but on tackling terrorist threats.
The US will keep an eye on Al Qaeda who attacked America on September 11, 2001. Defense Minister Austin said the Taliban had resolved in 2020 not to allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for al-Qaeda in the future, and expressed hope that the Taliban would remember their resolve.
General Milley said the Taliban now occupy half of Afghanistan's 419 district centers and has not yet captured any of the country's 34 provincial capitals, but is exerting pressure on nearly half of them.
He said the Taliban were occupying more territory and in the meantime Afghan security forces were strengthening their positions to protect major population centers, including Kabul. The general further explained that the Taliban seems to be gaining strategic momentum since the Taliban has occupied a large area in six, eight, 10 months.
The Pentagon has said that the process of withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan has been completed by up to 95 percent and will be finished by August 31.