Taliban checkpoints have proliferated across key parts of Afghanistan as U.S. forces have withdrawn over the past year, leaving Afghan towns and cities increasingly isolated and impeding the Afghan government’s ability to function.
Dozens of temporary Taliban checkpoints now dot the main highways leading into and out of the Afghan capital, according to eight local officials, and more than 10 permanent outposts have been established by the militants along the country’s main north-south highway. Many of the new permanent outposts are checkpoints abandoned by government forces stretched thin by the U.S. drawdown, pushed out by expanding Taliban influence, or both.
Taliban checkpoints are both a symbolic show of force and a real blow to Afghanistan’s already fragile elected government. The outposts — both temporary and permanent — along major highways frustrate military resupply efforts, stifle the provision of government services and undercut confidence in the country’s elected officials.
The new checkpoints have emerged as Afghanistan enters a pivotal period. NATO troops began drawing down Thursday, according to media reports and an Afghan official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. U.S. forces are set to reach zero by Sept. 11, a deadline originally scheduled for May 1. The Taliban’s encroachment on critical roadways is one of many signs that the group is undiminished after 20 years of war and appears to be pressing for a military victory as foreign military support for Afghan security forces is cut back. [Continue reading…]