Ambassador Khalilzad will be in Doha for several rounds of meeting to address the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, said the US State Department.

Several planned rounds of meetings are scheduled over three days to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, the State Department confirmed in a statement on Monday.

The United States diplomat to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, “will press the Taliban to stop their military offensive” at talks in Qatar’s capital this week, the department announced after the armed group seized a string of Afghan provincial capitals.

“Ambassador Khalilzad will be in Doha to help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,” the department added.

Governmental and organizational representatives from the region and beyond will participate and “press for a reduction of violence and ceasefire and a commitment not to recognize a government imposed by force”, the statement continued.

Earlier on Monday, the Taliban announced that it had captured a sixth provincial capital in Afghanistan in four days.

The armed group’s spokesman claimed it had overrun Aybak, the capital of the northern province of Samangan. 

Amid the advance of the Taliban, the US is showing no signs of stepping up air attacks, with a Pentagon spokesman saying that Washington now sees the fight as one for Afghan political and military leaders to win or lose.

“When we look back, it’s going to come down to leadership, and what leadership was demonstrated, or not,” by Afghans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a news conference.

“It’s their country to defend now. It’s their struggle.”

US officials said military commanders have bluntly laid out their assessments that conditions in Afghanistan are deteriorating.

On Monday, US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his top Middle East commander, General Frank McKenzie, officials said.

But defence and military leaders have not provided any new recommendations to beef up US operations in defence of the Afghans.

Officials said the US has been launching up to a handful of air attacks a day on the Taliban.

There are no US attack aircraft in Afghanistan as the troop withdrawal continues, so warplanes are travelling from several hours away to reach their targets.

Pentagon press secretary, Kirby, refused to say how many air attacks the US has carried out in recent days and declined to say whether the Biden administration might continue the air attacks past Biden’s August 31 withdrawal date, given the Taliban advance.

In the meantime, “we will continue to support them … where and when feasible, understanding that it’s not always going to be feasible,″ Kirby said of the Afghan government and military leaders.

President Joe Biden has said he is honouring a withdrawal deal that President Donald Trump struck with the Taliban. But Biden has made clear he also is determined to extract US forces from their longest war.

The Biden administration says it will continue to support the Afghanistan military financially and logistically, including contractors helping maintain the government’s air force from outside Afghanistan after the withdrawal.


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