| 27 January 2023, Friday |

Erdogan ready to ‘receive’ Taliban leader as US backs Afghan forces

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that he could meet with Taliban in order to ensure peace in Afghanistan, while the militant group is making inroads seizing provincial capitals

On Wednesday, Taliban swept the ninth provincial capital as Afghan troops continued to be pushed back from key areas in the country.

“Maybe I will even be in a position to receive the person who is their leader,” Erodgan said in an interview. Turkey had earlier expressed its intention to provide security to the Kabul airport which was resisted by the Taliban.

Meanwhile, US Defense Department spokesman John Kirby backing the Afghan forces, said: “The Afghan forces have the capability, they have the capacity, they have a numerical advantage, they have an Air Force.”

“It’s really going to come down to the leadership and the will to use those capabilities,” Kirby added.

State Department spokesman Ned Price added that the Afghan government has “tremendous leverage” informing that it had “300,000 troops, an Air Force, special forces, heavy equipment, training and support from the United States.”

Taliban has stepped its offensive in the last two months after launching a major attack in mid-May as US troops have pulled out of the region. President Joe Biden had announced US troops will be out of Afghanistan by August 31 with the deadline now just days away.

In mid-May, the US forces had withdrawn to Kandahar as the Taliban began annexing rural areas in the north and south while advancing rapidly across the country.

In June, the militant group captured a key border crossing in Tajikistan including districts leading to Kunduz.

Last month, the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s biggest border crossing with Iran, Islam Qala and a few days later Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan was overrun by the militant group.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is set to arrive in Mazar-e-Sharif as the Taliban forces have begun a major offensive to capture the city even as hundreds of Afghan soldiers reportedly surrendered in Kunduz which was captured by the Taliban earlier.