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Inside new Taliban uprising, Britain’s role, global terror risk and migration

BEHIND THE NEWS: Mirror Defence and Security Editor Chris Hughes explores seven key questions as the Taliban rises up once again and the chilling impact it could have on the west

Armed men attend a gathering to announce their support for Afghan security forces in the fight against the Taliban, on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan

Widespread Taliban violence has flared across Afghanistan as the war-battered country slips deeper into anarchy, amid fears local forces are failing to hold back the uprising.

The bomb-hit capital Kabul was again rocked with an explosion near the office of Afghanistan’s main security agency, wounding three people.

It was hours after a bomb and gun attack on a minister’s compound brought surging Taliban violence to the capital and a four hour battle.

Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi survived the assault on a heavy fortified Kabul compound but it marked an horrific deterioration in security.

It followed the US – UK troop withdrawal, part of a long and drawn out peace deal brokered with the Taliban, which the group appears to have ripped up.

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Over 10 rockets were fired at Kabul City early in the morning






Rockets were placed in the back of a corolla parked right in the middle of the airport road




Marking the defiance of the violence uprising Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said his group targeted the minister’s residence as an important meeting was underway.

At least eight civilians were killed and 20 wounded.

The Taliban have stepped up their campaign to defeat the U.S.-backed government since April as foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

Fighting has been particularly heavy around the city of Herat, near the western border with Iran, and Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in the south.









Bodies litter Lashkar Gah’s streets which just a few years ago were patrolled by UK forces.

And 18 women and children were recently killed in airstrikes aimed at the Taliban in Kandahar- once Taliban HQ before 9-11 and home to al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

What role has Britain played in the war?

For 20 years British troops played a key role in trying to secure Afghanistan, first arriving within weeks of the 9-11 atrocities across America in 2001.

Half of that time was spent battling war-hardened Taliban fighters, mostly in unruly Helmand Province in an increasingly horrific conflict.

UK forces joined America in trying to hunt down al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, whilst helping topple the Taliban rulers for harbouring the terrorists.



Casualties were reported in Kabul




But the grotesquely misguided and ineptly-handled Iraq war in 2003 diverted attention from Afghanistan and by 2005 the Taliban was resurging. By 2006 war raged.

Mostly in Helmand British military deaths soared , reaching 456 until the 2014 withdrawal and for the past six years they have been on protection and training missions.

What is going on behind the scenes?

Secretly Britain and America are pulling out hundreds of diplomats from the capital, evacuating all but essential staff, with the US quietly replacing staff with “security experts.”

By the end of this month all of Canada’s embassy staff will have gone from Kabul, sources have told the Mirror as it appears the west is abandoning Afghanistan.



Smoke rises into the sky after the rocket attack




The US has retained “air assets” with which they, along with the Afghan air force hope to rely on air-strikes to try and smash the Taliban uprising – so far with little success.

Bodies are littering the streets of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand and once a base for many British troops holding back the Taliban.

Is the Taliban uprising a surprise?

Not at all- in fact commanders have warned of this happening for years.

A senior Taliban commander, in an interview with the Mirror ten years ago, told us his colleagues had shadow governments ready to pounce in most Afghan provinces, once western troops left.

For six years the Taliban has moved freely in many provinces, particularly in Helmand, where it has reformed checkpoints and even patrols with Afghan police.

Why is the Taliban uprising so intensely violent?

The Taliban are keen to stamp their mark on Afghanistan, to seize the moment and it has the momentum to gain ground and entire provinces once again.

It fears Islamic State’s local force ISK – or Isis In the Khorasan is burgeoning and wants to grab as much land and power as possible before the Middle East-born group competes

.



British troops in the arrivals lounge continue their journey home after disembarking the Voyager aircraft
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Image:

UK Ministry of Defence via Getty)




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Previous estimates of the ISK number of fighters have been understimates at less than 1,000 – in fact western intelligence sources in Kabul say it is more like over 5,000.

The Afghan Taliban has until recently only ever had a parochial interest in fighting, believing in a violent struggle only to rid Afghanistan of foreigners.

Previously it had no interest in terror attacks outside the country.









But now it is reforming its old friendships with al-Qaeda and there is a danger it may turn its attentions to outside the country .

There is also a real danger that al-Qaeda will use the anarchy spreading through the country to plot more terror attacks across the west, as it did with 9-11.

Who funds the Taliban?

In the past, even though it has always been denied, Pakistan gave much support to the Taliban, encouraging chaos in neighbouring Afghanistan.

There is still thought to be much support from Pakistan’s feared ISI Inter Service Intelligence network which has kept a leash on the group until now.

Russia has also been funding the Taliban, even rewarding them for the deaths of western troops in a bid to discredit the NATO mission there.

Why did the United States lead the mass pullout?

Joe Biden and other American leaders have perhaps rightly called Afghanistan the “forever war” as it has cost many trillions and thousands of US lives – and that’s without counting the Afghan cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and perhaps 150,000 Afghan troops killed.

At one stage last month the death rate of Afghan forces was a terrifying 150 in 24 hours.

What will happen next?

Without intervention a mass country-wide disaster is looming, with thousands of refugees on the move and the deaths of many more civilians as the Taliban try to wrest power from Kabul.

The US believed it was time for Afghan forces to secure their own country and that the cost was no longer possible to meet– but for the past 15 years, despite UK and US training they have been woefully and tragically incapable, as the Mirror has witnessed on many occasions in Afghanistan.







Much of Afghanistan is falling into Taliban hands, with all that goes with that – the brutal degradation of women’s freedoms, eradication of education for women and the imposition of cruel and barbaric laws. T

The west is likely to see within months huge migration of refugees as surrounding countries suffer the awful fallout – and chillingly, the possibility of a return to Afghanistan spawning more mass casualty terrorism like 9-11.











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