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Taliban say they now control 85% of Afghanistan’s territory

MOSCOW (AP) – The Taliban said on Friday that they now control 85% of Afghanistan amid rising profits on the ground and as US troops complete their withdrawal from the war-torn country.

The announcement came at a press conference following a visit by a senior Taliban delegation to Moscow this week, a trip designed to offer reassurance that insurgents’ rapid gains in Afghanistan do not threaten Russia or its Central Asian allies.

The claim, which is impossible to verify, was significantly higher than previous Taliban statements that more than a third of the country’s 421 districts and district centers were under their control. There was no immediate response from the Kabul government to the latter request.

Earlier this week, Taliban progress forced hundreds of Afghan troops to flee across the border into Tajikistan, where a Russian military base is located. Tajikistan, in turn, has called on 20,000 military reservists to strengthen its southern border with Afghanistan. Russian officials have expressed concern that the Taliban tide could destabilize former Soviet countries in central Asia north of Afghanistan.

Since mid-April, when President Joe Biden declared an end to the “eternal war” in Afghanistan, the Taliban have taken steps across the country. They have recently passed through dozens of areas, taking control, often without a fight. Last week, they seized border crossings with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and on Thursday with Iran.

Under the Moscow prime minister, however, the Taliban promised not to attack the provincial capitals or seize them by force, and expressed hope for a “political resolution” with Kabul.

“We will not take over the provincial capitals so as not to cause the death of an Afghan citizen,” said Taliban negotiator Maulavi Shahabuddin Delaware.

Guarantees have been provided to the Afghan authorities, along with demands for the release of more Taliban prisoners from Afghan prisons, Dilavar said. He added that the Taliban now controlled 85% of Afghan territory.

The Taliban also vowed that “they will not allow anyone, any person, any entity to use Afghan soil against a neighboring country, a regional state and a world power, including the United States and its allies.”

“We do not want to fight. We want to find a political resolution through political negotiations, “said Taliban spokesman Mohammad Sohail Shahin. Taliban officials spoke through an interpreter.

Iranian media reported on Friday that the Taliban controlled two border crossings between Afghanistan and Iran, including Islam Kala’s key transit route, which was detained on Thursday. Iranian state radio reported that 300 Afghan soldiers and civilians had fled the Taliban and had slipped across the border into Iran.

Fighting broke out in southern Kandahar on Friday near the provincial capital, and the government sent more troops to protect the prison there from Taliban attempts to attack it and release prisoners.

Moscow, waging a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, made a diplomatic return as a mediator, turning to warring Afghan factions as it struggled with the United States to influence the country.

He hosted several rounds of talks on Afghanistan, most recently in March, involving the Taliban – although Russia described them as a terrorist organization.

Asked about this week’s visit and terrorist etiquette, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Moscow’s contacts with the Taliban were “necessary given how intense the situation in Afghanistan is, how the situation on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border is developing.”

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Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; Katie Gannon of Kabul, Afghanistan and Vladimir Isachenkov of Moscow contributed to this report.

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