Thursday, August 12, 2021

Breaking: U.S. Prepares to Evacuate Afghanistan

Breaking news, but not surprising.

It's getting grim over there.

A.P. has a detailed report this morning, "Taliban take Afghanistan’s third-largest city in onslaught."

And at NYT, "Marines Prepare for Possible Evacuation of Americans in Afghanistan":

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Pentagon is moving thousands of Marines into position for a possible evacuation of the American Embassy and U.S. citizens in Kabul as the Biden administration braces for a possible collapse of the Afghan government within 30 days, administration and military officials said.

The sharply deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, as the Taliban rapidly advance across the north and Afghan security forces battle to defend ever shrinking territory in the south and west, has forced the Defense Department to accelerate plans to get Americans out of the country. Officials say any evacuation will involve a robust use of American military force to move people to Hamid Karzai International Airport to waiting military transport planes and to protect them en route.

American negotiators are also trying to extract assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the embassy if they overrun the capital, two American officials said.

The 30-day estimate is one scenario and administration and military officials insist that the fall of Kabul might still be prevented if Afghan security forces can muster the resolve to put up more resistance. But while Afghan commandos have managed to continue fighting in some areas, they have largely folded in a number of northern provincial capitals.

The Taliban seized the strategic city of Ghazni, about 90 miles south of Kabul, on Thursday, putting the group in a better position to attack Kabul after its recent string of victories in the north.

And as Ghazni fell, Taliban fighters broke through multiple front lines in Kandahar, pushing deep into the city. As Afghanistan’s second-largest city, Kandahar is historically and strategically important. The Taliban, led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, began their insurgency there in the 1990s.

Herat, a city in western Afghanistan near the Iranian border, was also in an increasingly dangerous position as Taliban fighters flooded in.

A senior official in the Biden administration said in an interview that the Taliban might soon take Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province and the country’s economic engine, which is now effectively surrounded by the Taliban. The fall of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar, which has all but collapsed, the official said, could lead to a surrender of the Afghan government by September. Another senior U.S. official described the mood in the White House as a combination of alarm and resignation — at the rapid pace of the Taliban offensive and the collapse of Afghan national forces, and over how the situation could continue to worsen. There has been a constant stream of video teleconference calls every day this week, the official said.

Three contingents of Marines are preparing for the possible evacuation of the American Embassy, officials said. A Marine battalion of several hundred is already on the complex grounds, responsible for evacuating the embassy, which has 4,000 employees, including 1,400 Americans, officials said.

In addition, the Pentagon is moving a Marine expeditionary unit, with more than 2,000 Marines, into position closer to the air route over western Pakistan, known as the “boulevard,” where it can dispatch its forces into Afghanistan as a rapid response team that would be able to begin an embassy evacuation within a day of orders, officials said. And as a contingency plan in case any embassy evacuation turns into a fight with the Taliban, Defense Department officials have tasked thousands of Marines to begin a training exercise that can, if necessary, quickly be turned into an evacuation deployment, the officials said. The Marines in the exercise have been told that they may need to be ready to deploy next week within 96 hours, officials said.

Asked during a news conference on Wednesday whether the Pentagon was speeding up any evacuation of people from the embassy, a spokesman for the Defense Department, John F. Kirby, demurred.

“We’re focused on the security situation that we face now, which again we’ve acknowledged is deteriorating,” he said. “We are certainly mindful of the advances that the Taliban have made in terms of taking over yet an increased number of provincial capitals.”...

Who lost Afghanistan? Why, Joe Biden, of course. *Shrug.*

And is it possible? I'd argue it's inevitable. While withdrawal is the zeitgeist right now, one the Taliban take over, it's going to be a bloodbath.