A U.S. peace envoy has warned the Taliban not to pursue a military victory on the ground in Afghanistan.
The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, delivered a blunt message — that a Taliban government installed by force will not be recognized by the international community.
Khalilzad met with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, where the group maintains a political office. There he said he helped “formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.”
The development comes amid a weeks-long, relentless Taliban offensive as American and NATO forces finalize their pullout from the war-torn country.
According to the Associated Press, the Taliban insurgents have captured five out of 34 provincial capitals in the country in the last week, and are currently fighting to overtake three more capitals.
While Taliban military chief Mohammad Yaqoob urged fighters in an audio message Tuesday not to harm Afghani forces and government officials in areas they conquer, it's unclear if soldiers will heed his call.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said that its staff has treated more than 4,000 Afghans this month in their 15 facilities across the country as civilian casualties increase in the escalating war.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden administration's plan for withdrawal, saying that it was based on the "safety and security" of Americans.
"After 20 years at war, it's time to bring our troops home," she said.
When asked if she thought Biden was "disappointed" in the performance of Afghan troops, Psaki said that the Afghanis should rely on the 20 years of financial support and training provided to them by the Americans.
"I don't think we have the luxury of being disappointed," Psaki said.