WASHINGTON DC (Agencies): The Pentagon’s top spokesperson on Friday acknowledged a “deteriorating security situation” in Afghanistan amid claims from the Taliban that the insurgent group now controls a large majority of the country.
“What we have seen is a deteriorating security situation on the ground, no question about that, that the Taliban continues to take district centers,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in an interview with CNN on Friday morning. “We are seeing them continue to advance on district centers around the country, and it is concerning.”
Kirby’s comment came after the Taliban claimed to now control 85 percent of Afghanistan.
The assertion was made by a Taliban negotiator during a news conference in Moscow, where a senior Taliban delegation was visiting this week to offer reassurances the insurgents’ recent gains will not threaten Russia or its Central Asian allies.
Kirby told CNN he was “not in a position to quantify or to validate” the Taliban’s claims on how much territory it controls.
“Claiming territory or claiming ground doesn’t mean you can sustain that or keep it over time,” Kirby added.
According to Long War Journal, which is maintained by Bill Roggio of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Taliban controlled 204 of 398 districts, or just over half, as of Monday.
The Taliban is contesting another 124 districts, according to the tracker.
Over the last week, the Taliban has been consolidating gains in the north of Afghanistan, including taking control of border crossings with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkmenistan. Amid the Taliban onslaught, hundreds of Afghan soldiers have reportedly fled into those neighboring countries.
On Thursday, President Biden forcefully defended his decision to withdraw U.S troops from the region as headlines about Taliban gains racked up and the United States nears its final exit from the country after 20 years.