The Taliban has entered the capital city of Kabul, with reports that President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country. This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
The afghanistan capital is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is located in the eastern part of the country, close to the border with Pakistan.
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The Afghan government fell apart when the Taliban seized control of Kabul and the rest of the country’s main cities. Diplomats from the United States were evacuated, and some citizens also left the city. CreditCredit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
With President Ashraf Ghani’s departure from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s entrance into the capital on Sunday, the militants essentially sealed their control of the nation after dozens of cities succumbed to their rapid assault.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced on Twitter on Sunday evening that he was forming a coordinating council with Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the Afghan delegation to the peace talks, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hesb-i-Islami party, to oversee a peaceful transition of power. Mr. Karzai urged both government and Taliban troops to exercise moderation in their actions.
Al Jazeera claimed that it had spoken with Taliban militants who were conducting a press conference in Kabul’s presidential palace. The fighters said that they were trying to secure Kabul so that leaders from Qatar and elsewhere could safely return. According to Al Jazeera, the fighters have pulled down the Afghan flag.
Thousands of Afghans who had sought shelter in Kabul after escaping the insurgents’ ruthless military assault watched with increasing anxiety as the local police appeared to vanish from their regular checkpoints as it became apparent that Taliban militants were entering the city and encountering little opposition. After rumors that the airport in Kabul was on fire, the US Embassy issued a warning to Americans not to go there, stating that the situation was “changing rapidly.”
Mr. Ghani issued a written statement on Facebook late Friday evening, saying he had left the country to prevent more violence in Kabul.
He wrote, “Today I was faced with a difficult decision.” “I should take a stand against the armed Taliban who want to invade the presidential palace or flee the beloved nation that I have devoted my life to defending for the last two decades.”
“Countless people would have been murdered and Kabul city would have been destroyed if I had stayed,” he said, “in which case a catastrophe would have befallen our five-million-strong metropolis.”
The Taliban said at 6:30 p.m. local time that their troops were going into police districts to ensure security in places where government security personnel had abandoned them. After the Taliban’s spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, made the announcement on Twitter, Taliban militants took up positions in various sections of the city, encountering no opposition.
According to the statement, “the Islamic Emirates instructed its troops to infiltrate the regions of Kabul city from where the enemy has fled since there is a danger of theft and robbery.” The Taliban had been told not to hurt people or invade private residences, according to the report. “Our troops are approaching Kabul with extreme caution.”
As the sun fell behind the mountains, traffic became congested as crowds got larger, with more Taliban militants arriving on motorcycles, police pickup trucks, and even a Humvee that previously belonged to the US-backed Afghan security forces.
Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal had stated earlier in the afternoon that an agreement had been reached for a peaceful transition of power for greater Kabul, and that his troops were maintaining security.
“The safety of the city is assured. He said, “There will be no assault on the city.” “The agreement for larger Kabul city is that authority would be handed under an interim government, God willing.”
Mr. Mirzakwal subsequently declared a curfew in the capital until 9 p.m., and urged people to return home.
According to a member of the Afghan team in Doha, Qatar, that has been in peace talks with the Taliban since last year, Mr. Ghani boarded an aircraft for Uzbekistan with his wife, Rula Ghani, and two senior aides. The official requested anonymity because he did not want to be associated with the president’s travels.
Mr. Abdullah, the previous Afghan government’s top executive, chastised Mr. Ghani for leaving in a Facebook video.
“God will hold the previous president of Afghanistan to account for leaving the nation and its people in this terrible condition, and the people of Afghanistan will make their judgment,” Mr. Abdullah stated in the video.
Mr. Ghani was scheduled to fly to Doha on Sunday with a bigger group to discuss the transfer of power in talks led by Mr. Abdullah, but instead traveled to Uzbekistan, according to a member of the peace team.
Mr. Ghani has rejected calls to resign. He promised to “avoid future instability” and urged for the country’s military to be “remobilized” in a taped address broadcast on Saturday. But the president was becoming more isolated, and his statements appeared disconnected from reality.
With rumors abounding and solid information scarce, the streets were filled with scenes of fear and despair throughout the day.
“Greetings, the Taliban have made their way into town. In a widely circulated Facebook post, Sahraa Karimi, the CEO of Afghan Film, stated, “We are fleeing.” She filmed herself as she ran on foot, out of breath and holding her headscarf, yelling at others to go while they still had the chance.
She said, “Hey lady, girl, don’t go that way!” She said, “Some folks don’t know what’s going on.” “Can you tell me where you’re going? “Make haste.”
Wais Omari, a 20-year-old city street seller, said the situation was already bad and he was concerned about the future.
“I’m going to hide in my house if things grow worse,” he added.
Reporting was provided by Christina Goldbaum, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Carlotta Gall, Sharif Hassan, Jim Huylebroek, Najim Rahim, and Lara Jakes.
On Sunday, the Taliban seemed to be on the verge of seizing control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
Panic seized Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Sunday as Taliban militants began arriving, prisoners broke out of the city’s major jail on the east side, and the US-backed administration seemed to be crumbling.
President Ashraf Ghani was said to have left by the afternoon. While American troops concentrated their efforts on evacuating embassy employees and other personnel, Afghan government officials were shown in video footage in many towns approving a transfer of authority to their Taliban counterparts.
Senior Afghan leaders were spotted boarding aircraft at Kabul airport early in the day. According to Afghan media sources, Taliban fighters captured Bagram Air Base and the provincial town of Khost in eastern Afghanistan about noon on Sunday. Khost’s fall was part of a rapid, domino-like loss of authority that saw city after city fall in the past week, leaving Kabul as the final major city under government control.
In a video statement released early this afternoon, Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said that an agreement had been reached for a peaceful transfer of power for greater Kabul, and he sought to reassure residents by saying that security forces would remain in place to ensure the city’s security.
“As the minister of the interior, I have directed all Afghan National Security Forces divisions and personnel to stabilize Kabul,” he said in a video message posted to the ministry’s Facebook page at 2 p.m. local time. “There will not be a city-wide assault. The agreement for larger Kabul city is that authority would be handed to an interim government, God willing.”
Residents, on the other hand, seemed dubious by their leaders’ promises. People were seen painting over advertising and posters of women at beauty salons in the city’s heart, presumably in preparation for a takeover by the hardline Taliban, who do not allow pictures of humans or animals, and have historically prohibited music and sex mingling.
Residents reported that several police officers had left their positions or had changed into civilian attire. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s top negotiator, was said to be in the city and prepared to seize control of the Interior Ministry.
Surreal events played out throughout the day as it became clearer and clearer that the Taliban were gaining control.
The insurgency has had its own power structure for a long time, with shadow governors chosen in each province, and it was obvious who was in charge in key regions on Sunday. In films, the governors, tribal and political leaders who had previously held authority were shown officially turning over control to their Taliban counterparts in the key towns of Kandahar, the southern stronghold, and Nangarhar, the eastern stronghold.
However, following an escape of inmates, many of whom were Taliban members, from the major jail at Pul-i-Charkhi, concerns of the city being overrun were high in Kabul.
“Look at this,” a guy remarked as he recorded a video of individuals carrying packages going away from the jail, which he later shared on Facebook. “This is the Day of Judgment,” says the narrator.
The escape seems to have been carried out by the inmates from inside, rather than by Taliban troops on the outside.
Despite the turmoil, some Afghans found humor: “Taliban have arrived at Kabul airport… One Kabul resident said on Facebook, “Their speed is quicker than 5G.”
Others, on the other hand, left, though it’s unclear where they’d go now that the Taliban rule so much of the nation.
“Greetings, the Taliban have made their way into town. In a widely circulated Facebook post, Sahraa Karimi, the CEO of Afghan Film, stated, “We are fleeing.” She cried out to passers-by to get away as she ran on foot, short of breath and holding her head scarf.
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and other leaders attempted to fill the void by announcing that they would not leave. Mr. Karzai, who has been in talks with the Taliban about forming an interim government, uploaded a video of himself and his children in his garden while helicopters sounded above on his Facebook page.
“My dear Kabul citizens, I want to assure you that I, my daughters, and my family are with you,” he stated. “We are collaborating with the Taliban’s commander to find a peaceful solution to Afghanistan’s problems.”
From his garden, Abdullah Abdullah, who has spearheaded recent negotiations with the Taliban, delivered a video message.
“Our people all across the nation have had a very difficult few days,” he added. He urged the Taliban to talk “so that the security situation does not worsen and our people do not suffer any more.”
Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a former director of intelligence who has been battling the Taliban since the 1990s, vowed that he would not surrender as word of the president’s departure spread.
The Afghan security forces, on the other hand, seemed to be disintegrating. Abdul Jabar Safi, the director of the Kabul Industrial Park, which houses hundreds of industries and enterprises, claimed that company owners were using a few handguns and weapons left by government guards to fight against thieves.
When contacted by phone, he stated, “We want the Taliban to reach us as soon as possible so they can protect the region.” “We have spoken with the Taliban, and they have promised us that until they arrive at the industrial park, we will be responsible for the park’s security.”
Officials at Kabul’s National Museum, on the western outskirts of the city, also appealed for assistance through a western official, claiming that police guards had abandoned their post outside the museum and that they feared the museum, which had been looted heavily in the 1990s, would fall prey to thieves once more.
The entrance to the US embassy in Kabul after the evacuation of employees to the airport on Sunday. Credit: Getty Images/Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse
KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Following the Taliban’s entry into Kabul on Sunday, the US embassy advised Americans not to go to the airport in Kabul because the situation was “changing rapidly.”
Witnesses at the civilian domestic airport claimed they heard gunfire on occasion and that hundreds of people had crowded inside the terminal and filled the parking areas, trying to get out.
“The security situation in Kabul, particularly at the airport, is rapidly changing,” the embassy stated in a statement. “There have been reports of the airport catching fire, so we are advising U.S. citizens to take cover.”
On Sunday, the Taliban seized Kabul, completing a near-total recapture of Afghanistan two decades after the US force ousted them. Last Monday, a frantic evacuation of US officials and citizens began in earnest, as Afghans rushed to banks, their houses, and the airport. As the sound of gunshots reverberated across downtown Kabul, crowds of people fled along the streets.
Helicopter after helicopter came down and then flew off laden with passengers, including huge Chinooks with dual engines and fast Black Hawks that had been the workhorse of the grueling battle. Some of the flares were fired from above.
According to a senior administration source, those evacuated over the weekend included a core group of American diplomats who had intended to stay at the embassy in Kabul. According to the official, they were being transferred to a facility near the international airport, where they would remain for an undetermined period of time.
The airport’s runway was covered with a kaleidoscope of various national uniforms. They were among a slew of contractors, diplomats, and citizens attempting to board an aircraft out of town. Those who were allowed to fly were given special wristbands that indicated their noncombat status.
There were no wristbands for millions of Afghans, including tens of thousands who had aided US operations in the nation for years. They were stranded in the metropolis.
Hundreds of people flocked to the civilian side of the airport in the hopes of boarding flights out, but dozens of people were still waiting inside the terminal and hanging about on the apron by nightfall, despite the continuous boom of aircraft taking off from the nearby military air base. A huge queue of passengers formed outside the check-in gate, wondering if their out-of-country planes would arrive.
While President Biden has defended his decision to stay the course and withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, his administration has grown increasingly concerned about images that could evoke a previous foreign policy disaster: the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
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On Sunday, a Coca-Cola commercial flew over a white Taliban flag at a roundabout in Kabul. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
On Sunday, a conference call between members of Congress and the Biden administration’s top diplomatic and military officials on Afghanistan became tense as lawmakers pressed the administration on how intelligence on the Taliban could have failed so miserably and how long the military will secure the Kabul airport.
The 45-minute conversation with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley, according to lawmakers, was not especially revelatory.
Representative Peter Meijer, a former Army reserve who conducted conflict analysis in Afghanistan, stated, “It was, I would say, a repetitive exercise in giving us what we had previously heard through the media and social media.”
The interrogation was sharp and at times heated. Much of it focused on how and which Afghans the US would get out of Afghanistan.
Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey who served in the Obama administration as a State Department official and was the former president of Human Rights Watch, pressed for answers on how long the US military would be able to keep its hold on the Kabul airport so that charter and commercial flights could continue.
Lawmakers also inquired as to whether the Afghans Americans are attempting to assist would include individuals who worked for the embassy, military interpreters, and those with special immigration visas. The briefers promised them that the US will attempt to assist a larger range of people, including human rights and women’s rights advocates, journalists, and students at the American University of Afghanistan.
Mr. Malinowski added, “I want to make sure we don’t pack up and go when all the Americans and S.I.V.’s are out.”
However, there is no assurance that all Afghans who want to leave will be able to.
Mr. Meijer said, “It is abundantly apparent to me that there has been a cascade of failures within the Defense Department, the intelligence community, and among our political community.” “And nothing on the call gave me the impression that even the scope of the failures had been grasped.”
The political ramifications for Vice President Joe Biden are yet unknown.
Defense hawks like Wyoming Republican Representative Liz Cheney have spoken out against what they perceive as a hasty retreat and collapse that can — and should — be blamed on the Biden administration.
“If you look at what it would have taken to keep the status quo, 2,500 to 3,500 forces on the ground conducting counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations, this disaster, this catastrophe that we’re watching unfold right now across Afghanistan did not have to happen,” Ms. Cheney said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
However, such voices are becoming more uncommon in a Republican Party that continues to support former President Donald J. Trump, who wanted an even faster withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a war-weary Democratic Party that is mostly siding with Mr. Biden — or remaining quiet. It’s possible that this reflects the views of voters from both parties.
“What I am feeling and thinking about the situation in Afghanistan, I can never fit on Twitter,” Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, said on Twitter. But one thing that stands out is that I haven’t had a single constituent call about it. And there are a lot of veterans in my district.”
On Sunday, Taliban militants wave to passers-by as they travel around Kabul in an Afghan Police car. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
Human and refugee rights organizations slammed the Biden administration for not acting quicker to remove America’s Afghan friends from a nation where they face deadly Taliban reprisals as the US rushed to evacuate staff from its embassy in Kabul.
In a statement, Jennifer Quigley, senior director for government relations at Human Rights First, stated, “The Biden administration has waited far too long to establish a mechanism that guarantees the protection of Afghans who worked alongside American military and civil society actors.” “As Afghanistan’s military and political officials leave their positions, the US risks losing friends who stood by our side, translated for, and defended our troops.”
“We will have violated our commitment to leave no one behind unless there is a quick and serious attempt to evacuate the thousands of allies and their families to the United States or a US territory,” she said.
The Special Immigrant Visa program was established by Congress this year to enable Afghans who have worked with Americans for the last 20 years to move to the United States. Thousands of individuals and their families have been granted eligibility by the State Department, and some have already been flown out of Afghanistan.
However, the rate of evacuation has not kept pace with the fall of the Afghan government. “At the present rate of evacuation flights, it will take until March 2023 to remove all eligible Afghans out of the country,” Ms. Quigley stated.
Afghans who are not qualified for the program, such as those who worked for U.S.-based media companies or nonprofit groups, may apply for high-priority refugee status, according to the Biden administration.
However, US officials say that those Afghans, who may number in the tens of thousands, must first leave the country on their own steam to begin a lengthy application process. It may be too late for many of them to flee now that the Taliban control towns, roads, and border crossings.
On a motorbike in Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban flag was flying. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
The fall of Kabul comes after days in which militants took control of one city after another with remarkable rapidity, sometimes with little or no opposition, leaving the government in control of just small areas of the nation.
Insurgents captured Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Pakistan late Saturday, barely an hour after bursting past the city’s front lines. Soon after, government security troops and militias withdrew, giving power to the rebels, notably those headed by warlords Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Muhammad Noor.
The Taliban took control of the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday morning. The militants seized control of the Torkham border crossing, a key commerce and transit route between Afghanistan and Pakistan, by capturing the province capital and adjacent regions. They seized possession of Bagram Air Base, which had been the center of American military power in Afghanistan until the Americans turned it over to Afghan troops six weeks before.
As government troops melted away and the president left the country, Taliban militants started taking up positions in Kabul, the capital and the final major city under government control.
The Taliban assault, which began in May when the US began evacuating soldiers, has accelerated in recent days. Militants tore down Afghan government flags and up their own white banners in city after city.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken admitted that the attack had proceeded quicker than anticipated.
Despite two decades of conflict with US-led troops, the Taliban have persisted and flourished, never abandoning their goal of establishing a state ruled by a strict Islamic law.
Movie theaters were shuttered, the Kabul television station was shut down, and all music was prohibited when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in the 1990s. Girls were barred from attending school.
Despite the recollections of many Afghans of years under Taliban rule before to the US-led war in 2001, the militants have recently seized control of most of the nation with little opposition.
Their quick victories have revealed the weaknesses of an Afghan force that has cost the US over $83 billion to sustain over the last two decades. Soldiers and police officers have been abandoning the security forces in increasing numbers as the rebels’ campaign has progressed, with the cause for which they sacrificed their lives seeming to be more lost.
The Taliban’s rapid surge has thrown departure plans into turmoil. Many experts predicted that once foreign troops left, the Afghan military would be overwhelmed, but that this would take months or years.
President Biden has ordered an extra 1,000 soldiers to be sent to Afghanistan to assist with the evacuation of American citizens. He made it plain that his decision to remove all combat troops would not be reversed.
Mr. Biden stated on Saturday afternoon, “I was the fourth president to preside over an American military presence in Afghanistan – two Republicans, two Democrats.” “I would not, and would not, hand this conflict over to a fifth generation.”
On Sunday in Kabul, a man waving the Taliban’s trademark white flag directed traffic. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
As the Taliban advanced into Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, confusion reigned in Washington early Sunday, with US authorities trying to assess how secure Americans remaining in the city would be.
On Sunday morning, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was scheduled to appear on three television news programs to address the situation, hours after the American Embassy in Kabul closed and the surviving diplomats fled to the capital’s international airport for protection.
Before departing the vast complex, embassy employees had started a concerted attempt to destroy papers and other sensitive items. A fourth senior US source refused to specify whether the chargé d’affaires, Ross Wilson, and his inner circle of advisors would stay at a diplomatic compound near Kabul airport or return to the US with other Americans being evacuated.
The Biden administration has repeatedly cautioned the Taliban against using force to seize Kabul or even entering the city while the massive evacuation operation is ongoing, which could take days or weeks to complete. As the terrorist organization gained control of much of Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the senior American envoy who has been talking with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, has tried to negotiate an agreement to decrease bloodshed.
At the same time, the military’s Central Command chief, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., has traveled to the Gulf area to supervise military operations in Afghanistan. Qatar is home to the Central Command’s forward headquarters.
According to a Defense Department official, the Taliban have also taken control of Bagram Air Base, the American war effort’s headquarters in Afghanistan for the last 20 years.
According to the source, Taliban militants infiltrated the base on Sunday, which the US handed over to Afghan security forces last month. Taliban troops have also seized control of the adjacent Parwan jail, which held thousands of inmates, including al-Qaeda members.
On Sunday morning, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley rushed to the Pentagon for briefings on the developing situation.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska and a member of the Intelligence Committee, described Afghanistan’s fast decline as a “unmitigated catastrophe,” blaming President Biden and previous President Donald J. Trump for military withdrawals that he said contributed to the country’s demise.
“Let history be clear: American soldiers did not lose this war; Donald Trump and Joe Biden chose to lose,” the senator stated in a statement released early Sunday.
Mr. Sasse said, “The impending loss will severely harm American intelligence and provide jihadis with a safe haven in Afghanistan once again.” “This will be America’s undoing.”
Image courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Shutterstock.
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The Taliban seemed to be on the brink of a full takeover of Afghanistan after seizing Jalalabad on Sunday. Planes leaving Kabul International Airport, the capital, were packed with people fleeing the city.
In May, American and Afghan troops gathered at a military base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, for a handover ceremony. Credit: Associated Press/Afghan Ministry of Defense
With the Taliban poised to retake control in Afghanistan, Vice President Joe Biden defended his choice to depart the nation after two decades of military presence.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr. Biden said that the United States had invested nearly $1 trillion in Afghanistan over the past 20 years and had trained and equipped more than 300,000 Afghan security forces, including maintaining the Asian country’s air force.
Mr. Biden said, “An additional year, or five years, of US military involvement would have made little difference if the Afghan military cannot or would not hold its own country.” “And I couldn’t tolerate an indefinite American presence in the midst of another country’s civil war.”
Mr. Biden’s remarks came only hours after the Taliban took Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, but before the organization grabbed Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday. The Taliban stormed Kabul, the capital, on Sunday, while President Ashraf Ghani fled.
Mr. Biden blamed President Donald J. Trump in part for the escalating catastrophe in Afghanistan, claiming that an agreement struck with the Taliban in 2020 set a timetable for the departure of American troops of May 1 this year, putting the Taliban in the “strongest military position since 2001.”
“I had to choose between sticking to the agreement, with a short extension to get our soldiers and friends out safely, or ramping up our involvement and sending more American troops to fight in another country’s civil war,” Mr. Biden said.
A congressionally appointed research committee this year recommended the Biden administration to forgo the May 1 goal and delay the departure of American forces, claiming that strict adherence to the timetable might lead to civil conflict in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials made similar appeals, but Mr. Biden stuck to his long-held view that Afghanistan should be left to its own devices.
Since foreign forces withdrew in May, the Taliban have accelerated their military conquest much faster than U.S. intelligence officials expected. Mr. Biden expedited the deployment of 1,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan on Saturday to assist with the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghans working for the American government from Kabul. The number of American soldiers in the nation will temporarily increase to 5,000 as a result of this deployment.
Mr. Biden cautioned the Taliban in his statement that “any action on their side on the ground in Afghanistan that puts US troops or our mission in jeopardy will be met with a quick , robust US military response.”
Last month, displaced Afghan women pleaded with a police officer in Kunduz, Afghanistan, for assistance. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
A high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-torn capital, is concerned that she may not be able to complete her studies.
Wahida Sadeqi, 17, asks the same question as many Afghan civilians in the aftermath of the US military departure and before of a Taliban victory: What will happen to me?
The United States’ departure, which essentially ends the country’s longest war on foreign territory, is likely to usher in yet another tough chapter for the Afghan people.
“I’m really concerned about my future. It seems to be quite hazy. Ms. Sadeqi, an 11th student at Kabul’s Pardis High School, stated, “If the Taliban take control, I would lose my identity.” “It’s about my existence,” she says. It has nothing to do with their withdrawal. I was born in 2004, and I have no clue what the Taliban did to women, but I am aware that they were prohibited from doing anything.”
In Afghanistan, uncertainty pervades almost every aspect of existence. It’s uncertain what the future holds, or whether the war will ever end. American leaders have promised peace, prosperity, democracy, the end of terrorism, and women’s rights for more than two decades.
Few of those promises have come true in large parts of Afghanistan, but even in places where genuine progress has been made, there is concern that all will be lost once the Americans depart.
The Taliban, an extreme organization that formerly ruled the majority of the nation and is still fighting the government, has demanded that the elected president resign. Militias are becoming more powerful and prominent, and there is speculation of a long civil war.
Over the course of two decades, the American mission has changed from chasing down terrorists to assisting the government in establishing functional institutions, dismantling the Taliban, and empowering women. The Taliban, who took shelter in Pakistan, were never completely destroyed by the US and Afghan forces, enabling the rebels to make a return.
Afghanistan’s democratic government was never recognized by the Taliban. And they seem to be closer than ever to realizing their insurgency’s goal: regaining power and establishing a government based on their extreme interpretation of Islam.
Women would be most at risk under Taliban rule. When the group controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it barred women from taking most jobs or receiving educations and practically made them prisoners in their own homes — though this was already custom for many women in rural parts of the country.
“It is too early to make a judgment on the matter. In April, Fatima Gailani, an Afghan government negotiator engaged in ongoing peace negotiations with the Taliban, stated, “We need to know a lot more.” “One thing is certain: it’s past time for us to learn to trust ourselves. Afghanistan’s women are no longer the same. They are a powerful force in our nation, and no one has the authority to deny them their rights or status.”
The US stayed in Afghanistan much longer than the British did in the nineteenth century, and twice as long as the Soviets, with similar outcomes. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
If there has been a constant theme in Afghanistan’s two-decade-long conflict, it is an overestimation of the effects of the $83 billion the US has spent since 2001 training and equipping Afghan security forces, and an underestimate of the Taliban’s cruel, devious tactics.
Even before President Biden entered office, the Pentagon had given grave warnings to him about the Taliban’s ability to overwhelm the Afghan Army. But, according to intelligence assessments, that might happen in 18 months, not weeks.
Commanders were well aware that the Afghan forces’ illnesses would never be cured: entrenched corruption, the government’s refusal to pay many Afghan troops and police officials for months, defections, and soldiers deployed to the front without sufficient food and water, much alone weapons.
According to Mr. Biden’s advisers, the continuation of those issues strengthened his view that the US could not continue to support the Afghan government and military indefinitely. He told advisers in Oval Office meetings this spring that remaining another year, or perhaps five, would not make a significant difference and that the risks were not worth it.
In the end, an Afghan army that had lost faith in itself and a US effort that Mr. Biden and most Americans had lost faith in teamed to bring America’s longest war to an ignoble conclusion. The US stayed in Afghanistan much longer than the British did in the nineteenth century, and twice as long as the Soviets, with similar outcomes.
The argument over a definitive withdrawal and the miscalculations about how to carry it out started the minute Mr. Biden entered office, as the last of four American presidents to confront difficult decisions in Afghanistan but the first to leave.
“Under Trump, we were one tweet away from a total, precipitous withdrawal,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired general who oversaw Afghan policy for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama at the National Security Council.
“Under Biden, it was clear to everyone who knew him, who saw him pressing for a vastly reduced force more than a decade ago, that he was determined to end U.S. military involvement,” Mr. Lute added, “but the Pentagon believed its own narrative that we would stay forever.”
“The problem for me is the lack of contingency planning: If everyone knew we were heading for the exits, why didn’t we have a strategy for making this work over the last two years?” he added.
This month at the State Department, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. Credit… Brendan Smialowski took this picture of the pool.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan “happened more rapidly than we expected,” but he reiterated the Biden administration’s stance that maintaining US troops in Afghanistan was not in the country’s best interests.
Mr. Blinken, who seemed disturbed in an interview with CNN following a night that saw Taliban militants invade Kabul, the Afghan capital, and the closure of the US Embassy as the last surviving American diplomats in Afghanistan were relocated to a facility near the city’s airport for greater security.
Mr. Blinken stopped short of declaring that all American ambassadors would return home, instead stating that a small group of officials would remain in Kabul.
However, he vehemently defended the administration’s decision to withdraw the military from Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict, claiming that the country would have been vulnerable to Taliban attacks if the US had broken a deal brokered by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw all foreign forces.
Mr. Blinken said, “We would have been back at war with the Taliban,” adding, “something the American people just can’t accept – that is the truth.”
He said it was not in America’s best interests to commit additional time, money, and perhaps lives to Afghanistan at a time when China and Russia were posing long-term strategic difficulties. However, Mr. Blinken said that American troops would stay in the area to combat any terrorist danger that may emerge from Afghanistan back home.
He also seemed to seek further criteria before recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate administration or establishing a formal diplomatic contact with them.
The Biden administration previously said that the Taliban must never enable terrorists to use Afghanistan as a safe haven, must not seize Kabul by force, and must not target Americans in order to gain international financial support.
Mr. Blinken said on Sunday that the Taliban must respect people’ fundamental rights, especially the rights of women, who acquired greater freedoms to go to work and study when the Taliban were removed from power in 2001.
There would be no recognition of a Taliban administration “if they do not uphold the fundamental rights of the Afghan people, and if they return to aiding or sheltering terrorists who may attack us,” according to the secretary of state.
Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slammed Mr. Blinken’s remarks, saying the Taliban’s quick takeover of Afghanistan “is going to be a blot on this president and his administration.”
Mr. McCaul said, “They really botched this one.” “They grossly misjudged the Taliban’s strength.”
“I hate to say it, but I really hope we don’t have to go back there,” he expressed his desire. “However, it will soon become a danger to the homeland.”
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