Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Taliban Takeover

It's underway.

At WSJ, "Taliban Take Over Kabul as Afghan President Flees Country":

KABUL—Taliban fighters on Sunday took over the Afghan capital as President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad, triggering a massive effort to airlift Western diplomats, civilians and Afghans likely to be targeted by the country’s new rulers.

Demoralized Afghan security forces offered no resistance as the insurgents, who seized most of the country in just over a week, appeared Sunday morning on Kabul’s outskirts. While the Taliban initially said they wouldn’t enter the city while a transitional government is being formed, they reversed their stance by nightfall, saying that someone needed to maintain public order after Afghan police deserted their posts.

“To prevent chaos and looting, the Islamic Emirate has ordered the mujahedeen to get control of the abandoned areas,” a Taliban statement said. The Taliban fighters, it added, won’t bother any civilian or military officials of the former regime.

By evening, the main road to the Kabul airport—packed with Afghans desperately trying to escape and with thousands of American troops protecting the evacuation effort—presented a bizarre scene of Taliban fighters mingling with uniformed Afghan troops.

Mr. Ghani, who fled the presidential palace and spent Sunday morning at the U.S. Embassy, left the Afghan capital in the afternoon. “God will hold him accountable and the people of Afghanistan will make their judgment,” Kabul’s chief peace negotiator said in a video message. A senior security official confirmed Mr. Ghani’s departure.

On Sunday morning, the administration of Mr. Ghani told all employees to go home. Soon after, sporadic gunfire erupted and some 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.

As the Taliban moved to seize Kabul, the U.S. Embassy sent out an alert Sunday night warning U.S. citizens in the capital to stay where they were, effectively putting a halt to America’s rushed efforts to get its citizens out of the country before the government collapsed.

“Do not come to the embassy or airport at this time,” the alert said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected parallels being made with the rushed U.S. exit from the U.S. embassy in Vietnam in 1975, when staff was evacuated by helicopter from the building’s roof. He said the aim in Afghanistan was to target al Qaeda, which had been achieved.

“This is not Saigon,” said Mr. Blinken, speaking to CNN on Sunday. “We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission, and that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. And we succeeded in that mission.”

Helicopters had earlier 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.

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, large crowds gathered at the military gate, trying to get through the checkpoint. There was an exchange of gunfire, with a warning of a ground attack sounding in the terminal.

Dozens of gray U.S. Air Force and British transport planes awaited their passengers, the landing strip secured by newly arrived American troops.

Some of the evacuating Westerners waited 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 soon.

In Kabul, just before the Taliban takeover, long lines formed outside banks and at the city’s few functioning ATMs as residents rushed to withdraw their cash before it was too late. Few succeeded.

The stunning meltdown of the Afghan state left the city in shock.

This is America's longest war, and like the last one, Vietnam, we lost it. 

One of the most significant foreign policy debacles ever. 

Still more.