Taliban Attacks Upsurge as US Eyes Total Exit, Afghan Spy Chief Says

US orders staff to leave Kabul due to threats

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KABUL- The Afghan Taliban have ramped up attacks in the country, with violence rising after US President Joe Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of all American troops by Sept. 11, the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Tuesday.

“The Taliban have increased their activities by 24 percent following the deal with the United States of America, and their attacks are at their peak since the announcement of the troop withdrawal by Mr. Joe Biden,” Ahmad Zia Saraj said during a press conference in Kabul.

He accused the Taliban of maintaining close ties with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which breached a key part of the controversial deal they signed with the US in Doha, Qatar, more than a year ago.

“Despite the commitment they made in the deal, we see no sign showing the Taliban have distanced themselves from Al-Qaeda. On the contrary, we have sufficient proof that they are aiding Al-Qaeda to bring together again in Afghanistan those of its members who are in hiding in the region,” Saraj said.

The Qatar accord paved the way for the total exit of all US-led foreign troops from Afghanistan after months of intensive talks between the Taliban and the Trump administration, which excluded President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

Earlier this month, President Biden said that all US combat troops would leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, instead of May 1, ending America’s longest war.

The removal of approximately 3,000 American troops coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, which led to the Taliban’s ouster in a US-led invasion the same year.

President Ghani said he respected the US decision to withdraw its forces, adding that Afghanistan’s military was “fully capable of defending its people and country.”

Saraj said that Kabul had no plans to free thousands of Taliban prisoners – as demanded by the insurgent group for the signing of the Qatar accord – as “many” of the 5,000 prisoners already released by the Afghan government “had returned to the battlefield.”

“Therefore, there isn’t any reason to release more Taliban prisoners. As a future strategy amid the departure of foreign troops, the government will concentrate on securing highways,” he said.

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