The Taliban is rapidly gaining ground as the US comes close to completing its military withdrawal now set for the symbolic date of September 11 after US President Joe Biden reneged on the original May deadline negotiated between the insurgents and Donald Trump’s administration.
The resurgent Taliban have gained a new income stream after taking over a major customs post on the border with Tajikistan.
The fundamentalist movement seized the Sher Khan Bandar border crossing north of the city of Kunduz recently as it extended its control across the northeast.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the guerrillas had negotiated the handover with the Tajik and Uzbek governments.
Traffic through the customs post and half-mile-long bridge across the Panj river, built by US army engineers, is worth millions of US dollars annually. But the Taliban say traders have complained of corrupt border officers.
Officials from President Ashraf Ghani’s government claim trade across the border has been halted. But Sher Khan Bandar traders association head Sayed Mujtaba Hashemi, whose firm imports cement, steel and salt from Tajikistan, said the Taliban called all local businessmen to a meeting to reassure them that trade would continue uninterrupted.
He said the Taliban met Tajik officials in the middle of the bridge to discuss terms for keeping the border open. Since then 50-80 lorries have crossed the border daily, leading Hashemi to estimate that the insurgents are raking in 1 million…