As the US-backed government collapses, Afghanistan falls to the Taliban once again.
Taliban fighters stormed into Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on Sunday, 20 years after being ousted from power in a US-led assault. Afghan government troops offered minimal opposition.
Afghanistan’s US-backed president had fled the nation within hours, and the flag at the US Embassy had been lowered amid a hurried departure of diplomatic staff.
Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, said on Facebook that leaving was a “difficult decision,” but that he made it to avoid violence. “Long Live Afghanistan,” he said at the end of his piece. The Taliban said that they had invaded the 6 million-strong metropolis and were trying to restore law and order.
The militia’s forces captured Mazar-e-Sharif, the final remaining government bastion, on Saturday,
then Jalalabad, which sits just east of Kabul on a key road artery, on Sunday.
By Sunday, Kabul had taken on an eerie resemblance to the fall of Saigon in 1975, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, as helicopters circled the US embassy, which was under evacuation orders. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was quick to reject the connection to Vietnam: “This isn’t the city of Saigon. We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission: to deal with the people who attacked us on September 11, 2001, and we succeeded. ” On CNN’s State of the Union, he said.
The US embassy issued a warning on Sunday about allegations that Kabul’s airport was “on fire,” and that “we are advising U.S. nationals to stay in place.”
As military evacuations continue, the airport has been closed to commercial planes, according to a US military officer.
The White House had already authorized 5,000 soldiers to deployed to Afghanistan to provide security and aid with evacuations of American personnel. On Sunday, the Pentagon announced that an additional 1,000 troops would be sent to the area.
An ignominious conclusion to America’s longest conflict.
The events of the day marked a dramatic conclusion to America’s longest war,
which was sparked by the Taliban’s reluctance to give up Osama bin Laden in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Within weeks of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., US-led troops invaded Afghanistan,
overthrowing the Taliban by the end of the year.
However, this participation lasted months, if not years. According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, more than 2,400 US service members, 3,800 American contractors,
more than 1,100 other allied service members and an estimated 66,000 Afghan national military and police have died as a result of the conflict, along with more than 47,000 civilians.
In the end, the United States will have spent $2.26 trillion on Afghanistan, including the expense of reconstructing the Afghan government and training its troops.
On Sunday, Blinken expressed his displeasure with the fast demise of the 300,000-strong U.S.-trained Afghan security forces,
who “proven incapable of protecting the nation” — an occurrence that “did happen more quickly than we expected,” he said.
Former NATO supreme allied commander Ret. Adm. James Stavridis shared this sentiment: “You can buy all the weapons in the world, but you can’t buy leadership, political will, or, in particular, battlefield will,”
Stavridis told NPR’s Weekend Edition. “As a result, we see the Afghan army dissipating. It’s a sad situation. “
Meanwhile, confusion and terror reigned supreme in Kabul as the Taliban,
who have a well-deserved reputation for repression and violence, especially against women and ethnic and religious minorities, took control.
“All the thiefs, robbers, and looters have fled.”
Many Afghans stood in lengthy queues to withdraw money from banks, fearful of what would happen to their wealth under the new government.
One citizen, who NPR will not name for fear of retaliation, reported pandemonium in the capital.
“Right now, the thieves, robbers, and all the looters are out and about, attempting to steal vehicles,” the lady said. “There are gunshots all over the place.”
“We have this guard with a pistol in [our area], and he just fired at someone because people are attempting to steal homes and whoever is passing by the road,” she said.
Others in the city seemed to be embracing their new overlords.
“This evening there were amazing images of Taliban militants fleeing the city in seized Humvees and police vehicles,
brandishing M16s, cheered on by throngs of civilians, pursued by packs of youngsters,” Matthieu Aikins, a freelance journalist in Kabul, tweeted late Sunday.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he is forming a “coordinating council” with Abdullah Abdullah,
who represented the Afghan government in previous negotiations with the Taliban,
and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the head of the Hezb-i-Islami party and a former warlord,
to “prevent chaos and reduce the suffering of the people and to better manage the affairs related to peace” in a series of tweets.
However, with the Taliban controlling almost all of the cards,
it was unclear what, if anything, such a council or temporary government could accomplish.
A former Trump official and the White House both point fingers.
On Saturday, as the final assault on the capital seemed all but certain,
Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement attempting to distance his administration from the unfolding events,
emphasizing that the peace agreement promising the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan was hammered out under former President Donald Trump.
Biden said, “I inherited a bargain struck by my predecessor.”
It put the Taliban in “the greatest military posture since 2001” and gave US troops until May 1, 2021, to withdraw.
“He also reduced US troops to a bare minimum of 2,500 just before he left office,” Biden added.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who played a key role in negotiating the Trump administration’s peace agreement with the Taliban, blamed the Biden White House for the failure on Fox News Sunday.
“It seems that the Biden administration has simply failed to carry out its own strategy,” Pompeo added.
The White House is still relying on Afghan security forces to stand up and battle the Taliban,
according to State Department spokesman Ned Price, who talked to NPR on Friday.
“What we know and believe is that the Afghan National Security Forces are a substantial force. What we need to see now is that it is put to good use, “he said.
The Taliban’s triumph and the departure of the US embassy put an end to a special immigrant visa program for Afghan translators
and others who had aided the American effort in the nation but were now at risk of Taliban retaliation.
On Friday, Price said that the US was “dramatically ramping up that effort.”
“Too far, we’ve been able to transport 1,200 Afghans to their new life here in the United States,” he told NPR.
“We know it is inadequate considering the size of the number of Afghans
who have placed themselves, and possibly their families, in danger to assist us,” he added.
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