U.S. general: Taliban has momentum in Afghanistan

U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley participates in a news briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday in Arlington, Va. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Gen. Milley held a news briefing to discuss various topics including the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS

WASHINGTON — The Taliban has “strategic momentum” in its fight with the Afghan government as U.S. forces complete their withdrawal, the top U.S. general said Wednesday.

“This is going to be a test now of the will and leadership of the Afghan people, the Afghan security forces and the government of Afghanistan,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

He said Taliban insurgents have control of more than 200 district centers — about half of 419 in the country — and is putting military pressure on the country’s provincial capitals.

The U.S. military has completed 95% of its withdrawal and 984 airlifts of troops and equipment so far and will be finished by the end of August, Milley said. President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal in April.

The U.S. has spent about $74 billion since 2005 on training, equipping and sustaining Afghan Security Forces, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Milley said Afghan security forces are consolidating forces around Kabul and provincial capitals as Taliban fighters attempt to isolate those population centers. The U.S.-allied government has about 300,000 troops and police while the Taliban forces number about 75,000.

The Pentagon will be closely watching violence there after the Eid holiday, which could determine control of the country, including a Taliban takeover or even a descent into chaos or rule by warlords, he said.

“I don’t think the endgame is yet written,” Milley said.

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