As this is unfolding, 100s of US citizens are scrambling aboard C-17s as the Biden admin evacuates the country…
We give the last word for this latest update to FT op-ed writer Gideon Rachman who presciently notes:
If Donald Trump were presiding over the debacle in Afghanistan, the US foreign policy establishment would be loudly condemning the irresponsibility and immorality of American strategy. Since it is Joe Biden in the White House there is instead, largely, an embarrassed silence.
One thing of note – which we are sure Fauci and Biden will quickly clamp down on – none of the evacuees appear to be wearing masks!!
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Update (1200ET): The Taliban are now in charge.
- TALIBAN FIGHTERS ENTER AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL PALACE – TWO SENIOR TALIBAN COMMANDERS IN KABUL
- TALIBAN SAYS THEY HAVE CONTROL OF PRESIDENTIAL PALACE: REUTERS
Meanwhile the US embassy in Kabul is also about to fall to the Taliban who are set to return to power after 20 years…
- U.S. EMBASSY IN AFGHANISTAN SAYS REPORTS OF KABUL AIRPORT TAKING FIRE, INSTRUCTS U.S. CITIZENS TO SHELTER IN PLACE
Security Alert – U. S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan (August 15, 2021)
Event: The security situation in Kabul is changing quickly and the situation at the airport is deteriorating rapidly. There are reports of the airport taking fire and we are instructing U.S. citizens to shelter in place. The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan has suspended consular operations effective immediately. Do not come to the Embassy or airport at this time.
U.S. citizens needing assistance in departing the country should register for any option that might be identified to return to the United States, by completing this Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in their group. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas should also complete this form if they wish to depart. Please do so as soon as possible. You must complete this form even if you’ve previously submitted your information to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Do not call the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for details or updates about the flight. This form is the only way to communicate interest in flight options.
… having retaken Kabul in less than 8 hours.
Are we about to have another Libya on our hands, with one or more embassy staffers about to die as Taliban hostages?
NBC is reporting that the US Ambassador has left the embassy. He and the flag are at the airport. And perhaps even more notably, NBC News appears to be turning against the Biden admin…
Meanwhile, according to the AP, a Taliban official says they will soon declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace in Kabul.
And as Afghanistan falls, expect much more humiliation for SecState Blinken and Joe Biden in the coming days and years.
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Update (1005ET): “Run Away!”
Reuters is reporting that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country as the Taliban enter the capital Kabul. Ghani is reportedly in Tajikistan.
The president left the country accompanied by his “close aides,” TOLO, an Afghan news channel, reported, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
A source told Russia’s RIA-Novosti news agency that Ghani had fled to Tajikistan and would soon travel from there to a third country.
The Taliban is claiming it has engaged in talks with the government about a “peaceful surrender” of the city to the group.
“Until the completion of the transition process, the responsibility for the security of Kabul is with the other side [the Afghan government],” the Taliban wrote in a statement posted online.
Afghanistan’s acting interior minister, Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, said that a transfer of power will happen peacefully, while security forces will remain in the streets to “ensure Kabul’s security.”
“A transitional administration” will be formed in Afghanistan, the minister said, as quoted by Reuters.
The Taliban is expecting a “peaceful transfer of power” from the Afghan government “in the next few days,” the radical group’s spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told the BBC.
“We assure the people, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe,” Shaheen said, adding that the Taliban also intends to protect the rights of women and media freedom in the country.
The group noted that Kabul is a large and densely populated city, and it won’t enter “by force or war,” suggesting that fighting to capture the capital would result in heavy losses and damage.
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US intelligence services – by now fully woke and focused on the existential threat to the country’s future that are white, middle-class American males – had predicted just 4 days ago that Kabul could fall in 90 days. It turned out to be less than 90 hours.
In a grotesque repeat of the Fall of Saigon, on Sunday, the Taliban – having reclaimed the country at an unprecedented pace – entered Kabul, freeing inmates at the city’s main prison and triggering a massive effort to airlift Western diplomats and civilians as the country’s demoralized security forces offered no resistance. Meanwhile, the US – cementing its humiliation on the international arena – was busy evacuating diplomats from the embassy in Kabul to the airport.
Cementing its renewed grip on the country two decades after the U.S. ousted it from power, the Taliban in a statement said that they wouldn’t take Kabul by force. The insurgent group added that it had ordered its fighters to wait and not penetrate the Afghan capital, home to six million people, and that it was in talks with “the other side” to discuss entering the city without harming its residents, the WSJ reported.
“The Islamic Emirate instructs all its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul, not to try to enter the city,” the Taliban said in a statement on Sunday, referring to the group’s formal name. “Negotiations are under way to ensure that the transition process is completed safely and securely, without putting the lives, property and honor of anyone in danger.”
Until the transition of power is done, the current Afghan government would remain responsible for the security of the capital, it said, while adding that a general amnesty was announced for all government officials and soldiers.
A senior Afghan official said President Ashraf Ghani was at the U.S. Embassy to consult with the U.S. envoy. Both the U.S. and Afghan government have asked the Taliban to hold off for two weeks until a transitional government could be agreed to, he said. “I do not think the Taliban will accept the offer,” he said.
Despite the Taliban’s promises of a peaceful transition, sporadic gunfire erupted in central Kabul in the late morning as the administration of Ghani told all employees to go home.
Soon after, checkpoints were abandoned as panicked residents clogged the streets. By early afternoon, the Taliban took over Kabul’s main Pul-e-Charkhi prison, freeing thousands of inmates, videos on social media showed.
Having spent trillions of dollars over two decades to “modernize” the Afghan army so it can stand up against the Taliban, it took just hours to see that this money has been completely wasted as the terrified army scattered and handed over its weapons to the advancing Taliban. As a result, over at the US embassy on Sunday afternoon helicopters ferried American and Western diplomats and civilians to the military side of Kabul airport. One after another, Chinooks and Black Hawks took off from the landing zone, spraying dust.
The U.S. will completely pull out all embassy personnel within three days, CNN reported. It added that a core of U.S. officials would remain at Kabul airport, currently the only route out of the country rushed to withdraw their cash before the Taliban takeover.
An official said military helicopters were shuttling between the embassy compound and the airport, where a core presence will remain for as long as possible given security conditions.
Below them was a city of traffic jams and roundabouts choked by cars—many of them filled with Afghans trying to reach the airport’s relative safety.
Dark smoke, presumably from burning documents, rose from the presidential palace.
In the airport, dozens of gray U.S. Air Force and British transport planes awaited their passengers, the landing strip secured by some of the newly arrived American troops, who will also be evacuated shortly.
Some of the evacuating Westerners relaxed on cardboard boxes marked with the words “non-Pork MRE,” or meal-ready-to-eat. Others—including Afghan dual citizens—nervously waited their turn for the shuttle bus that would take them to their planes, away from the city they would be unlikely to see again anytime soon.
In Kabul, long lines formed outside banks and at the city’s few functioning ATMs as residents rushed to withdraw their cash before the Taliban takeover.
In addition to seizing Kabul, Taliban forces now hold all of Afghanistan’s border crossings, the Associated Press said. The news agency added that Afghan forces had surrendered Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, which the U.S. handed over to Afghanistan last month after nearly 20 years.
Seeking to avoid a mass exodus, late on Saturday the Taliban released a lengthy statement seeking to reassure Afghans and the international community. It denied reports that it had killed prisoners and forced villagers to hand over their daughters to marry Taliban soldiers, while adding that the group would respect public property, redeploy bureaucrats and military officers, and provide amnesty for anyone who “helped the invaders.”
The Taliban also said it would avoid seizing private property and create “a safe and conducive environment” for business. It also said neighboring countries should have confidence: “We assure all our neighbors that we will not create any problems for them.”
“No one should leave their area and country,” the Taliban statement said, referring to those areas it had seized. “They shall live a normal life; our nation and country need services, and Afghanistan is our joint home that we will build and serve together.”
We doubt anyone actually believes this.
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The stunning meltdown of the Afghan state “left the city in shock”, the WSJ reports as the Taliban, who controlled none of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals just over a week ago, have seized the bulk of the country and are now readying to assume power, either directly or by controlling a new transitional administration.
In a message to followers Sunday, the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, urged his fighters to treat conquered cities with a benevolent hand. “The victories are coming, do not be arrogant and conceited, do not betray the spoils of war, and treat well those who surrender to you,” he said. “Do your best to avoid civilian casualties.”
On Saturday, Biden rushed 5,000 troops to Kabul in an attempt to ensure an “orderly and safe drawdown”, to secure the airport and help evacuate American diplomatic personnel. The authorization added about 1,000 U.S. personnel to the deployment of 3,000 Marines and soldiers announced this week and 1,000 troops already at the airport and the embassy, according to a defense official. Helicopters landed at the American embassy compound in Kabul early Sunday, the AP reported.
On Sunday, the Green Zone that contained much of the foreign presence emptied out as embassies closed or relocated to the military base in the airport. The U.S., which is in constant contact with the Taliban’s political leadership in Doha, Qatar, has urged the insurgents to hold off on taking Kabul until after the evacuation is complete and all Americans have left the city, according to people familiar with the talks.
Also on Sunday, there was no sign of the U.S. military in the city itself. Residents rushed to put their affairs in order and people from areas that have fallen to the insurgents sought refuge in the capital. “We have no idea what will happen from one moment to the next in this situation,” said Mohammad Nasim, a worker at a nongovernment organization. “But what can we do? There is nowhere for us to go. There is no chance to leave the city anymore.”
Afghans also mobbed Kabul’s passport offices, seeking to secure valuable travel documents while an internationally recognized Afghan government still exists—and while the airport continues operations. Not many were lucky. According to the Journal, Milad Anwari, a 38-year-old businessman at the passport line, said he had already managed to move part of his family to Turkey, but several others were stuck in Kabul. “I never expected that Taliban will come again. Now everything is going to collapse,” he said. “In the presence of Taliban I don’t have any hope for the future of my country.”
Shortly thereafter, an announcement rang out that the passport office was closing because the Taliban had entered Kabul.
In the line that snaked past blast barriers outside Afghanistan’s central bank, opinions were divided over who was to blame. Poet Samdel Banwa, originally from the eastern Kunar province, said President Biden’s April decision to withdraw all American forces was the reason for the country’s unfolding tragedy.
He wasn’t alone: according to multiple reports on the ground, “people not just sad, but angry, blaming the US for abandoning the country to war, chaos, and the Taliban.”
A Kabul schoolteacher who stood in the same line, Mirwais, vented his anger at the infighting and incompetence within the Afghan government. “The government has betrayed the people,” he said. “This is why I am standing here today.”
Meanwhile, in a sign of the total chaos facing the city – and nation – NBC reported Richard Engel said that according to witnesses people, not Taliban, were rushing police in two Kabul districts and stealing their weapons. “a sign of how completely the security forces have collapsed.”
For the U.S., the priority now is to persuade the Taliban to hold off until the evacuation of Americans and other foreigners from Kabul is complete. Mr. Biden on Saturday said the U.S. has told Taliban representatives in Doha that any action on the ground in Afghanistan against U.S. personnel “will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”
The Afghan military began to unravel soon after Biden’s April decision to pull out U.S. troops, taking away the logistical and air support on which Afghan soldiers depended. Biden said that the withdrawal, which was required under the February 2020 Doha agreement between the Taliban and the Trump administration, was the right decision.
“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” he said.
Biden, who’s spending the weekend at Camp David, again defended his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after 20 years — America’s longest war.
“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats,” Biden said. “I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”
Just last month, Biden – who is now busy blaming Trump for the biggest US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam – assured the world that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is not inevitable. Reading teleprompted notes prepared by the Deep State, he said that
“you have 300,000 well-equipped Afghan troops and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban.” Little did either Biden, or the Deep State know just how much those 75,000 Taliban can achieve.
Biden has faced mounting criticism from human rights groups and some members of his own party, as reports emerge the Taliban is already bringing a return to attacks on women and other abuses reminiscent of its earlier rule. His administration has argued the Afghan army must take the reins while the U.S. provides military and financial support.
“They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation,” Biden told reporters last week.
… as well as Financial Times it’s over:
Sensing that the fall of Kabul under Joe Biden also marks a tipping point of US standing on the international arena, China has pushed the propaganda engine into overdrive with the editor in chief of the state-owned nationalist tabloid Global Times writing that “the Afghan government does not have the ability to resist and was completely defeated so quickly. This is the failure of the US and the West. A big, direct slap on the face of the Biden administration.”
Expect many more such mocking statements from America’s global foes in the coming days. After today, it certainly has many.
Kabul’s streets are clogged with panicked civilians fleeing the Taliban onslaught of the Afghan capital, American chinook helicopters are hovering above the US Embassy with an emergency evacuation in progress, and the national government propped up for two decades by US money and power is negotiating surrender with barely a fight.
One former CIA officer has observed looking back to Joe Biden’s July 8 Afghan policy speech: “This may become the most infamous — and devastating — press conference ever held by an American President,” wrote CIA foreign operations veteran Bryan Dean Wright on Sunday.
“When I announced our drawdown in April, I said we would be out by September, and we’re on track to meet that target,” Biden had said. “Our military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st.”
Clearly the Taliban are on the cusp of declaring victory in Kabul far ahead of that date marker, and certainly very far ahead of the initially conceived September 11 symbolic ‘mission accomplished’ date (without doubt whatever plans were laid for an optimistic sounding 9/11 “we’re out of Afghanistan” or even “mission accomplished” speech will be scrapped).
Here’s the exchange from a bit over a month ago:
REPORTER: Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it is not.
THE PRESIDENT: Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.
Perhaps this utter failure to grasp or predict anything close to reality on the ground in the conflict is a failure also shared by US intelligence, given that it was only in June that a widely reported intel assessment forecast that Kabul could fall within six months.
But just last week that assessment was significantly revised to say within “one month to 90 days”. Merely the last 48 hours has obviously proven this completely off the mark as well.
US intelligence is now giving it just 72 hours – but it’s looking more and more like the Taliban will overrun the capital in maybe just 24 hours, which may not even be enough time for all US diplomatic personnel to get out.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s US-backed leaders appear to be putting their exit plans in place, with appeals being made to the invading Taliban to spare them and their families…
For example former Afghan president Hamid Karzai urged the Taliban to provide security and safety for the city’s civilians and its leaders in a Sunday video message recorded while standing with his three daughters.
US to boost Afghanistan presence to 6,000 troops as it’s ‘taking steps’ to secure Kabul airport amid mass evacuation
As the Kabul international airport has plunged into chaos, becoming the only way out of the country for the thousands of Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban’s takeover, the US has announced it would be taking over air traffic control at the airport to speed up evacuation of Americans as well as allied Afghans.
For that purpose, the US military said it would deploy another 1,000 troops in addition to 5,000 US President Joe Biden ordered into Afghanistan to ensure an “orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel” earlier.