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Gen. Milley: Taliban could completely take over Afghanistan after US leaves

U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool/CNP/Abaca Press/TNS)
July 21, 2021

During a Wednesday Pentagon press conference, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said a complete Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could take place after U.S. forces leave the country.

Earlier this month, the Taliban claimed to control about 85 percent of Afghan territory. On Wednesday, Milley said the Taliban did control 213 of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers, but none of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, though noted that the Taliban “is putting pressure on the outskirts of probably about half of them, 17 of them in fact.”

Milley also noted the Taliban has seized “a significant amount of territory” in Afghanistan over the course of the last six to 10 months.

“So strategic momentum appears to be with the Taliban,” Milley said.

Milley said the Afghan security forces appear to be giving up territory but are doing so with the trade-off of consolidating their forces around larger population centers in the country.

Violence has slowed in recent days because of the celebrations of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic religious holiday, Milly said. He noted that it’s unclear how the Taliban will continue its offensive after Eid.

“After Eid, we’re going to find out,” Milley said. “We’re going to find out, whether the levels of violence, whether it’s going to go up, whether it’s going to stay the same.”

“There’s the possibility of a negotiated outcome that’s still out there,” Milley said. “There’s the possibility of a complete Taliban takeover, or a possibility of any number of other scenarios, breakdowns, warlordism, all kinds of other scenarios.”

Milley said the U.S. is still monitoring Afghanistan closely to see what happens.

Earlier in his remarks, Milley said, “A negative outcome, a Taliban automatic military takeover, is not a foregone conclusion.”

Milley said the Afghan government forces “are well equipped and they’ve been well trained over the past 20 years, at great expense to the United States and other international allies” but said there are other factors, such as will and leadership, that are critical in determining the outcome for Afghanistan. Milley said the state of Afghanistan after the U.S. finishes its withdrawal will be a test for the will and leadership of the Afghan government, its military and its people.

“There clearly is a narrative out there that the Taliban are winning, in fact, they are propagating an inevitable victory on their behalf, they are dominating the airwaves on their behalf on that sort of thing,” Milley said.

This month, about 1,000 Afghan government troops fled across the country’s northeast border into Tajikstan to escape. A video circulating the internet since June also purported to show Taliban fighters gunning down surrendering Afghan government troops.