New Dunbar development will have more minority contractors

The New York Times

A wave of Afghan surrenders to the Taliban is picking up speed

MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan – The derelict outposts in Laghman province ran out of ammunition. Food was scarce. Some police officers hadn’t been paid for five months. Just as US troops were leaving the country in early May, Taliban fighters were besieging seven rural Afghan outposts in the wheat and onion fields of the province in eastern Afghanistan. The insurgents asked the village elders to visit the outposts with the message: Surrender or die. Sign up for the New York Times morning newsletter. According to the village elders, the security forces had given up all seven outposts by the middle of the month after lengthy negotiations. At least 120 soldiers and police officers were safely taken to the government-held provincial center in exchange for handing over weapons and equipment. “We said to them,” You see, your situation is bad – no reinforcements are coming, “said Nabi Sarwar Khadim, 53, one of several elders who negotiated the surrender Government officials surrendered at least 26 outposts and bases in just four provinces – Laghman, Baghlan, Wardak and Ghazni – after such negotiations. With the morale plummeting as US troops withdraw and the Taliban’s seizing every surrender as a propaganda victory, each collapse feeds the next on the Afghan countryside. Among the negotiated surrenders were four district centers that housed local governors, police and intelligence chiefs. They handed over the state facilities to the control of the Taliban and dispersed the officials there, at least temporarily. The Taliban have in the past over negotiated the surrender of Afghan troops, but in the four provi that stretch east, north and west of Kabul never collapses the scale and pace of the base this month. The tactic has removed hundreds of government forces from the battlefield, secured strategic territory, and harvested weapons, ammunition and vehicles for the Taliban – often without firing a shot. The base collapse is a measure of the government’s rapidly deteriorating war effort as one outpost falls, sometimes after battles but often after massive surrenders. The surrenders are part of a larger Taliban playbook about conquering and holding territory as security forces’ morale declines as international troops withdraw. Local police and militia take over. Local ceasefires that allow the Taliban to consolidate profits. An ongoing military offensive despite requests for peace talks and a nationwide ceasefire. “The government is unable to save the security forces,” said Mohammed Jalal, a village elder in Baghlan province. “If they fight they will be killed, so they must surrender.” The surrender is the work of the Taliban invitation and leadership committees, which step in after insurgents cut roads and supplies for encircled outposts. Committee leaders or Taliban military leaders call base commanders – and sometimes their families – and offer to save troop lives by surrendering their outposts, weapons and ammunition. In several cases, the committees have given surrendering troops money – usually around US $ 130 – and civilian clothes and sent them home unharmed. But first they videotape the men as they promise not to rejoin the security forces. They log their phone numbers and the names of family members – and vow to kill the men if they return to the military. “The Taliban commander and the Invitation and Leadership Committee called me more than ten times and asked me to surrender,” said Maj. Imam Shah Zafari, 34, a district police chief in Wardak Province who will be his on May 11th Command center and weapons handover negotiations brokered by local elders. After the Taliban offered a car ride to Kabul, a committee member called to assure him that the government would not lock him up for surrendering. “He said,” We have so much power in government and we can release it, “said Zafari. The Taliban committees use a characteristic feature of Afghan wars: fighters and commanders regularly switch sides, close deals, negotiate surrenders and cultivate Village elders to influence local residents. The current conflict really consists of dozens of local wars. These are intimate battles in which brothers and cousins ​​fight each other and commanders on each side use cell phones to persuade, threaten and negotiate. “A Taliban -Commander calls me all the time trying to destroy my morale so I can surrender, “said Wahidullah Zindani, 36, a bearded, sunburned police commander who refused the Taliban’s request to hand in his nine-headed bullet. Outpost in Laghman Province The negotiated surrenders are part of a wider offensive in which the Taliban launched this F Surrounded at least five provincial capitals in the spring, according to a report by the Pentagon Inspector General published on May 18. Since the U.S. withdrawal began on May 1, the offensive has intensified its control of several key highways to cut off bases and garrisons, making them vulnerable. The surrenders have a profound psychological effect. “You call and say that the Taliban are powerful enough to defeat the US and they can easily take Laghman province, so you should remember that before we kill you,” said Rahmatullah Yarmal, the 29-year-old Governor of Laghman, on the Taliban committee during an interview in his barricaded compound in Mehtar Lam, the provincial capital. It’s an effective propaganda tactic, the governor admitted – so effective that some outpost commanders are now refusing to speak to elders or Taliban negotiators. He said many elders are not neutral peacemakers but hand-picked Taliban supporters. According to Yarmal, 60 police officers who surrendered and sought refuge in his government center are now ready to recapture the seven lost outposts. “I think we’ll have her back in a month,” he said. But just hours after the governor spoke on May 19, Dawlat Shah, a nearby district center, surrendered without resistance after the negotiations. By the next morning, five other outposts in Alishing District, also in Laghman, had surrendered in the same manner, district officials said. These Taliban victories were facilitated in part by a 30-day ceasefire negotiated by the elders on May 17 in the highly competitive Alingar district. This enabled the Taliban to shift resources to the Alishing, where they negotiated the surrender of the five forced outposts just two days later. (On May 21, the Taliban broke the ceasefire with renewed attacks in Alingar, said Khadim.) The series of base collapses marked the second full surrender in a Laghman district in two weeks. On May 7, three outposts and one military base collapsed in the same way without a fight, said Nasir Ahmad Himat, governor of Alingar district. “The soldiers just dropped their weapons, got into their vehicles and went to the district center or the provincial capital,” said Faqirullah, a village elder who has a name. As Taliban fighters advanced into the provincial capital on Sunday, Yarmal announced that 110 members of the security forces who surrendered and several commanders who were supposed to oversee them had been arrested for negligence. Also on Sunday, the Afghan military announced that troop reinforcements and the military chief of staff had rushed to Laghman to try to repel the Taliban attack. In Ghazni province, Hasan Reza Yousofi, a provincial councilor, said he had asked officials to send reinforcements to an outpost and military base that ultimately fell to the Taliban this month. He played a taped call from a police officer, Abdul Ahmad, who said his ammunition was gone and his men were drinking rainwater because the groundwater tower had been destroyed by a missile. “We’re sold out – we’re calling for reinforcements, but the officers won’t help,” said the recorded voice. “The Taliban sent us tribal elders who said, ‘Surrender, you are sold out, no one will help you.’ Yousofi said he did not know if Ahmad survived after his outpost fell. The negotiations have been remarkably fruitful for the Taliban in Baghlan Province, where at least 100 soldiers surrendered, and in Wardak Province, where around 130 security forces surrendered after the negotiations. In Laghman Province, the negotiations leading to the handover of the seven outposts lasted 10 days. Khadim, the village elder, said that various elders negotiated with commanders of each outpost. “We guaranteed they would not be killed,” he said. “Nothing was written, just our word.” A few miles away, Zindani refused to give up his abandoned outpost near the frontline. He said officers who negotiated surrender at three nearby outposts had betrayed their country. One of his men, Muhammad Agha Bambard, said he would fight to avenge the deaths of two brothers whom he said were killed by the Taliban. He would never give up, he said. Zindani’s nine men had a machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and an AK-47 rifle each in a ramshackle outpost with blood-stained walls. But he said he wanted to keep fighting – as he told the Taliban commander, who called regularly to request his surrender. “I told him I was a soldier in my country,” said the commandant. “I’m not here to give up.” Four days later, on Sunday, the outpost was overrun during a firefight with the Taliban, a member of the provincial council said. A policeman was shot dead and Zindani and his defeated men were captured. A few hours later, the Taliban released a video in which Bambard was questioned by a Taliban commander while he was lying on a mattress with his face and neck bandaged. In a mocking tone, the commander asked why Bambard posted on his Facebook page that he would not allow the enemy to capture his outpost while he was still alive. The wounded officer replied, “This is Afghanistan.” This article originally appeared in the New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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