Within weeks of occupying Shir Khan Bandar, the Afghan town bordering Tajikistan, Taliban militants have wrested control of Wesh on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan The loss of these two major transit stations would cripple the Afghan government financially. Shir Khan Bandar, a sprawling dry port capable of handling up to 1,000 vehicles a day remains Afghanistan’s key trade route to Central Asia. Wesh is the landlocked country’s second busiest entry point, providing access to Pakistani seaports. The route is used approximately by 900 trucks a day.
The Afghan government and the Taliban militants are equally responsible for the prolongation of the fratricidal war. Confident of continuous US support the Ashraf Ghani government was more interested in clinging on to power and had rejected the proposals to form a transitional government to hold elections. Ghani had also refused to free Taliban prisoners in return for peace talks as agreed in the Doha parleys between the USA and the Taliban. With the USA announcing the deadline for the exit of foreign troops, the Taliban, who were already euphoric over their victories, decided to rely more on a ground offensive than on the Doha talks. In April they refused to attend the summit on Afghan peace in Turkey.
The countries in the region are perturbed over the prolongation of war in Afghanistan. The civil war will force millions of displaced people to seek shelter in Pakistan and Iran. The unsettled conditions in Afghanistan would also provide an opportunity to terrorist networks to destabilize the region and countries beyond. China has called upon the Taliban to draw a line with all terrorist forces and return to the political mainstream with a responsible attitude towards the country and people. Russia has called for all sides to sit down together at the negotiating table in Kabul. Diplomatic efforts have intensified to end the stalemate in peace talks in Doha. A meeting is expected between leading Afghan political leaders and the insurgents in the next few days. On Wednesday night Prime Minister Imran Khan telephoned former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, inviting him and other leaders to an international conference on Afghanistan to be organized by Pakistan soon. This appears to be a kneejerk reaction as according to Information Minister Fawad Choudhry, details about the event are yet to be worked out.