The Taliban has the momentum right now in Afghanistan as it has gained control over more territories than ever before, the Pentagon acknowledged on Sunday, blaming the civilian leadership rather than the capabilities of the country's military for the group's progress. The remarks from the Pentagon came in the backdrop of reports that the Taliban has made huge territorial gains in Afghanistan. Taliban militants are now thought to be controlling about a third of the war-torn country.
We're certainly watching with deep concern the deteriorating security situation and the violence, which is, of course, way too high, and the advances and the momentum that the Taliban seems to have right now, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told Fox News. I mean we're not unmindful of that. We're watching it and monitoring it, which is why we are, again, working with our Afghan partners to encourage them to use the capacity and the capability that we know they have. We know that they know how to defend their country. This is a time for them to step up and to do exactly that, he said.
The Taliban has the momentum right now in Afghanistan as it has gained control over more territories than ever, he said. The United States has spent almost two decades training up the Afghan military and the police. It has spent over USD 88 billion on training them up.
Why are they failing so miserably in repelling the Taliban? Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Kirby. They (Afghans) have much more capacity than they've ever had before, much more capability. They have got an air force, a very capable air force helping defend their troops on the ground. They've got very sophisticated special forces who have been in the fight, and they're brave fighters, he said.
So, this is a moment of leadership. You heard the president talk about that the other day. It's their right and responsibility now to defend their citizens and their country. I think when we look back, whatever the outcomes are, we're going to look back and we're going to be able to say that it came down to leadership, civilian leadership and military leadership in the field, he said. Biden on Thursday announced that America's nearly 20-year military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31.
The US military exit from Afghanistan before September 11 stems from the February 2020 agreement Washington signed with the Taliban in return for counterterrorism guarantees and pledges the group would negotiate a political settlement to the war with the Afghan government. In April, President Biden announced that the US will withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, in an effort to end a deadly conflict that has cost trillions of dollars and the lives of more than 2,300 American troops.
The one thing that we can assure our Afghan partners is, while we aren't going to be on the ground with them going forward, we are not walking away from this relationship. We're going to continue to support them from a financial perspective, logistical perspective and certainly aircraft maintenance. We're not walking away from this relationship, Kirby asserted. The United States is working with the neighbouring countries that are closer to Afghanistan to see what the possibilities are, he said.
We are doing that as briskly and as energetically as we can to find additional options, he said.