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Biden says Afghanistan leadership has got to take on the Taliban

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Afghan people rendered homeless as Taliban intensifies assaults (Photo: IANS))

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the Afghanistan leadership will have to fight for their homeland as the Taliban blitzkrieg has taken everyone by surprise with the insurgents now controlling two-thirds of the country and three state capitals falling in a day.

"Afghan leaders have to come together," Biden told reporters at the White House. "They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation."

“The Afghan troops outnumber the Taliban and must want to fight, " he added.

The U.S. President said he does not regret his decision to withdraw, noting that Washington has spent more than $1 trillion over 20 years and lost thousands of troops.

“We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces," Biden told journalists. He said the United States continues to provide significant air support, food, equipment and salaries to Afghan forces.

In April, Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.

The Pentagon's massive task of removing service members and equipment out of Afghanistan is nearly complete, with the U.S. military mission slated to end by Aug. 31.

After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban has made rapid advances on the battlefield despite being vastly outnumbered by the Afghan army.  

Pul-e-Khumri, capital of the northern province of Baghlan, fell to the Taliban on Tuesday evening, according to residents who reported Afghan security forces retreating toward the Kelagi desert, home to a large Afghan army base, according to a Reuters report.

Pul-e-Khumri became the seventh regional capital to come under the control of the Islamist militants in about a week.

In Kabul, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was seeking help from regional militias he has squabbled with for years. He appealed to civilians to defend Afghanistan's "democratic fabric."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that while the Biden administration plans to continue to provide air support, there was not much else the U.S. military could do.

"We will certainly support from the air, where and when feasible, but that's no substitute for leadership on the ground, it's no substitute for political leadership in Kabul,” he said.

The US leadership is clearly of the view that the Afghanistan army and government is not using the capabilities and capacity that they have been provided with in terms of equipment and training by the US and NATO forces.  

"They have an Air Force, the Taliban doesn't. They have modern weaponry and organizational skills, the Taliban doesn't. They have superior numbers to the Taliban," Kirby said. "They have the advantages, and it's really now their time to use those advantages."

As the security situation in Afghanistan worsens, the State Department says: "We are evaluating the threat environment on a daily basis. The Embassy is in regular contact with Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price told journalists on Tuesday.

Also read: Afghanistan mounts urgent global appeal to prevent humanitarian disaster following Pak-Taliban offensive

Also read: India shuts last consulate in Afghanistan, Indian Air Force flying out citizens as Taliban closes in