NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with commanding wide of the Afghan Army, Gen. Sami Sadat, astir U.S. troops being astir wholly withdrawn from Afghanistan.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
We statesman this hr with a high-profile departure. General Scott Miller, the apical U.S. commandant successful Afghanistan, stepped down today, different milestone successful ending America's 2 decades of warfare there. NPR Pentagon analogous Tom Bowman has covered the warfare for each of those 20 years.
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Give maine immoderate discourse connected wherever this leaves U.S. operations. The latest is each U.S. troops retired by August 31, and until then, what, the CENTCOM commandant successful Florida takes implicit the mission?
BOWMAN: That's right, Mary Louise. For the archetypal clip now, a wide based extracurricular the country, General Frank McKenzie, volition person the authorization to equine airstrikes against al-Qaida and Islamic State targets successful Afghanistan. And it's imaginable determination could besides beryllium airstrikes successful enactment of the Afghan subject warring the Taliban. There were immoderate backmost successful May. But overall, Mary Louise, the Americans privation the Afghan Air Force to grip that occupation now.
KELLY: Well, Tom Bowman, enactment with us, due to the fact that adjacent I privation to bring successful immoderate absorption to this quality today, to General Miller's departure, from an Afghan general. This is Sami Sadat, commanding wide of the Afghan Army. Now, I archetypal spoke to him a fewer months ago, and backmost past - this was April - helium was optimistic. He told maine adjacent arsenic U.S. forces pulled out, that Afghan forces would not collapse. That was April. And successful the weeks since then, immoderate Afghan forces have, successful fact, surrendered. The Taliban has seized a third, possibly more, of the country's 400 provincial districts. So contiguous we called General Sadat backmost to get an update connected however helium sees the fight. General Sadat, it's bully to talk to you again. Where precisely person we caught you today?
SAMI SADAT: Thank you, Mary Louise. I'm successful Nimruz Province successful southwestern Afghanistan, conscionable a mates of kilometers disconnected the Iranian borders. And towards the westbound and towards the southbound of wherever I americium is 150 kilometers Pakistani border. So this is not the champion spot to beryllium close now.
KELLY: I'm looking astatine a map. So you're a small spot westbound of wherever we spoke to you past time, which was Helmand Province. Is that correct?
SADAT: That's correct.
KELLY: Still a precise unsafe portion of a precise unsafe country. What is the update? What is the information concern wherever you are?
SADAT: In Nimruz Province, we person had immoderate clashes betwixt the Afghan forces and the Taliban. And unfortunately, we person unfastened borderline with Pakistan and unfastened borderline with Iran. So determination is this question of Taliban moving successful from Pakistan connected Nimruz Province. And past determination is the Iranian facilitators who are getting worldly enactment and absorption from Iran to onslaught the Afghan forces. And they person been precise active, equipping and preparing and trying to overrun immoderate territory centers. We did suffer 1 territory halfway successful Nimruz, and that's wherefore I'm present to instrumentality it back. We're preparing a mates of operations to wide immoderate of the pockets successful the villages wherever the Taliban person managed to spot themselves. And past my ngo volition beryllium completed from here.
KELLY: Just to marque definite I'm proceeding you correctly, you're saying determination are Taliban fighters crossing the borderline from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and that's portion of who your forces are warring now?
SADAT: That's correct. So my corps is located successful southwestern Afghanistan, wherever I person astir 300 kilometer borderline with Pakistan and past 330 kilometer with Iran. So literally, we are successful the mediate of 2 countries' proxy warfare that we're fighting. From Pakistan, the Taliban crossed equipped with a batch of IEDs and landmines and vehicles and different means. There's a fig of al-Qaida fighters coming into Afghanistan recently. I've ne'er seen truthful overmuch al-Qaida fighters successful my country of responsibility. There has been this resurgence of al-Qaida conflict groups coming backmost to life, creating, like, vigor connection centers, creating facilitation nodes to enactment immoderate of the Taliban fighters. And I deliberation what they're trying to bash is to enlistee more, like, Punjabi and extremist elements from Pakistan and past facilitate them into the Taliban ranks.
KELLY: So this is precise progressive fighting. Your forces are engaged each day.
SADAT: Oh, yes. So 2 nights ago, wherever I americium close now, 1,000 Taliban from Farah Province from crossed occidental Afghanistan made a propulsion connected 1 of our brigade headquarters. The conflict was precise intense. In the archetypal fewer minutes, they conducted 3 vehicle-borne IED attacks connected our soldiers. Unfortunately, I person had casualties and injuries connected my side. Of course, they person failed, and galore of them got killed. But this is the combat of today. You would spot massing of Taliban into 1,000 successful southwestern Afghanistan and past making a tally for immoderate of our forces.
KELLY: Why are immoderate Afghan forces surrendering to the Taliban and sometimes without a fight?
SADAT: I think, Mary Louise, determination is simply a consciousness of abandonment amongst the Afghans from erstwhile the U.S. left. They consciousness abandoned and near alone. The different crushed is the monolithic propaganda conducted by the Taliban. It's playing into their ear. The 3rd crushed is truly logistical support. Afghanistan is simply a precise ample country. The territory is precise big. Conducting crushed operations to resupply immoderate of your areas - the terrain is precise bad. So successful my assessment, there's 3 things person been, like, the main crushed wherefore immoderate of the forces couldn't clasp their ground. But this is not successful a standard that would interest immoderate of the strategical locations of Afghanistan. All Afghan forces are inactive holding.
KELLY: Are they? I mean, I americium seeing reports that the Taliban has seized a 3rd of the country's provincial districts.
SADAT: I deliberation the territory centers person been seized. But a batch of the strategical assets, similar the hydropower dams, the municipality areas, the economical centers, is inactive with the Afghan forces. There was worry...
KELLY: Does the Taliban...
SADAT: ...About it.
KELLY: ...Not present - person they not made immense gains on the borders, including the borderline with Iran, adjacent to wherever you are?
SADAT: Not successful my country of responsibility. But they person made immoderate gains successful Farah and Herat Province. And that was rapidly retaken by immoderate of the section leaders, you know, accompanying the information forces. In Farah, we inactive person a ample country of our borderline with Iran controlled by the Taliban. But they're seeing radical moving successful to instrumentality that back.
KELLY: I privation to travel connected thing you said, which is you deliberation 1 origin present is Afghan forces feeling abandoned. You and I are speaking connected a time wherever we saw General Miller, the apical U.S. wide successful Afghanistan, measurement down. The U.S. is present saying each U.S. forces volition beryllium retired by August 31. How does it consciousness to you? Do you consciousness similar you're connected your ain successful this combat now?
SADAT: I benignant of do. And I benignant of felt that erstwhile the Taliban and the U.S. statement came to fruition and the regulation of the airstrikes and - I volition miss them, you know? And I said this successful my past interrogation arsenic well. I person immoderate of my champion friends and immoderate of my champion conflict comrades. But I recognize they person their ain country. I person my ain country. They person different things to bash successful the world, and I request to beryllium liable for what we're doing here.
KELLY: Despite your efforts, if things get worse alternatively of better, if the worst comes to walk and your authorities falls, what work bash you deliberation the U.S. bears?
SADAT: Well, I don't deliberation for a 2nd that our authorities volition fall. And I - of course, you know, things are astatine stake, and they're dangerous. And I deliberation we person mislaid portion of our state and immoderate of our districts. We privation to combat backmost from our cities. We privation to remobilize successful our cities and spell backmost and attack. And if we lose, past that's...
KELLY: And I'm asking that, successful part, due to the fact that you'll person seen the reports of U.S. quality estimates saying Kabul could autumn successful arsenic soon arsenic six months aft U.S. forces are afloat out.
SADAT: I disagree with that assessment. I judge Kabul volition go overmuch much stronger successful the adjacent fewer months. The cardinal authorities is linked with the communities, and radical volition turn stronger. There is simply a anticipation that immoderate of our cities mightiness - whitethorn autumn into the hands of the Taliban. But we privation to proceed fighting, you know? If a metropolis falls, we volition onslaught from different city. If a territory falls, we volition onslaught from the cities. We volition ne'er springiness up, you know? We volition proceed to fight. And I deliberation it's lone clip that we volition person the remainder of the satellite that we could triumph this combat and we should triumph this fight.
KELLY: That is commanding wide of the Afghan Army, Sami Sadat, speaking to america from the beforehand lines determination successful southwestern Afghanistan.
General Sadat, acknowledgment for being with america again.
SADAT: Thank you, Mary Louise.
KELLY: And NPR's Tom Bowman is inactive here, was listening on to the general. And Tom, I wonderment what you marque of General Sadat's comments connected the authorities of the fight. On the 1 hand, you heard determination axenic determination. He says they're going to support fighting. He's optimistic the authorities volition hold. On the different hand, his forces are engaged. They're engaged successful dense combat each day.
BOWMAN: Right. You know, a wide successful his pugnacious position, I suppose, has to stay optimistic. And it's noteworthy what helium said, Mary Louise, astir much al-Qaida fighters coming successful and, of course, ample numbers of Taliban coming from - crossed from Pakistan. That's been a existent occupation from the beginning, those harmless havens successful Pakistan. Now, section quality reports are little optimistic. They're saying the provincial superior wherever the wide is fighting, Lashkargah, is being pressed by the Taliban. That's 1 of 10 municipality areas astir the state being threatened - a precise troubling situation.
KELLY: All right. And would people a turning point, perhaps, successful the conflict determination if the Taliban is turning its sights, literally, connected the cities of Afghanistan. What are you watching for successful these coming days and weeks?
BOWMAN: Well, the large thing, Mary Louise, is, volition the Afghan Air Force beryllium capable to supply airstrikes to General Sadat and different commanders? That's an urgent need. The different happening is, General Sadat is bringing section militias into the combat with him. He's grooming them arsenic portion of his army. And immoderate of the warlords astir the state are besides getting their militias ready, possibly warring autarkic of the Afghan Army. And that could beryllium important successful holding immoderate of the municipality areas present nether Taliban threat.
KELLY: And besides making those conflict lines adjacent much analyzable and analyzable than they already were.
KELLY: NPR's Pentagon analogous Tom Bowman.
BOWMAN: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE TRAGICALLY HIP'S, "GRACE, TOO")
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