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World After two decades and billions spent, Afghan government collapses as Taliban takes Kabul

17:10  23 september  2021
17:10  23 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Once inmates, Taliban now in charge in a Kabul prison

  Once inmates, Taliban now in charge in a Kabul prison KABUL (AP) — Once, Kabul’s main prison was crowded with thousands of Taliban captured and arrested by the government. On Monday, a Taliban commander strolled through its empty halls and cell blocks, showing his friends where he had once been imprisoned. It was a sign of the sudden and startling new order in Afghanistan after the militant group swept into the capital nearly a month ago and threw out the crumbling, U.S.-backed government it had fought for 20 years. The Taliban now run Pul-e-Charkhi Prison, a sprawling complex on Kabul’s eastern outskirts.

In a swift and stunning rout, Taliban fighters seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Sunday, completing their sweep of the besieged nation as the Afghan government collapsed after two decades of U.S. efforts to reshape the region as part of its “war on terror.”

Embattled President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban entered the capital city of Kabul, and American troops scrambled to evacuate thousands of U.S. diplomats and Afghans from the U.S. Embassy.

The Taliban, which had been on the outskirts of Kabul for hours, announced soon after it would move farther into a city gripped by panic throughout the day as helicopters raced overhead to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy. Smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions prepared to pull their people out.

Taliban promise to uphold rights for women and US allies, but White House is skeptical

  Taliban promise to uphold rights for women and US allies, but White House is skeptical The Taliban said they won't hurt women. U.S. military commanders work with the militant group to allow Americans and some Afghans to evacuate.Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, women virtually had no rights under the fundamentalist Taliban's oppressive rule. Most were forced to quit their jobs and stay at home, denied access to education and health care, enduring high rates of illiteracy and maternal mortality.

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The Pentagon authorized an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to be deployed to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation efforts, said a defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly. That is on top of the 5,000 troops that President Joe Biden announced Saturday would be sent to ensure "an orderly and safe" drawdown and evacuate U.S. personnel, as well as Afghans who helped American forces.

a large body of water with a city in the background: A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. © Rahmat Gul, AP A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.

The Taliban is likely to declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace in Kabul, an official told The Associated Press. The Al-Jazeera network broadcast footage of Taliban fighters inside the presidential palace, sitting behind a desk that the network presumed was Ghani's and placing their guns on it.

'Nobody should be surprised': Why Afghan security forces crumbled so quickly to the Taliban

  'Nobody should be surprised': Why Afghan security forces crumbled so quickly to the Taliban Analysts say there were signs the Afghan military – unmotivated, disorganized and plagued by low morale – would struggle against the Taliban. "They were evident for a long time," said retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a twice-deployed veteran of the war in Afghanistan. "Nobody should be surprised by these outcomes if they had been paying attention." More: A timeline of the US withdrawal and Taliban recapture of Afghanistan Unmotivated to fight for 'corrupt' government The U.S. pumped more than $80 billion in equipment and training into the Afghan security forces since the start of the war in Afghanistan, which the U.S.

In Washington, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met via videoconference with their national security team to hear updates on the evacuation of civilian personnel and allies who worked alongside the U.S. government during the 20-year war.

On Sunday evening, a joint statement from the State and Defense departments said the U.S. is working to secure Kabul's airport to allow for departures, and would take over air traffic control with added troops on the ground.

"Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals. And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks," the statement reads.

‘No possible life’ under Taliban rule: Afghan women fear murder, oppression after US withdrawal

  ‘No possible life’ under Taliban rule: Afghan women fear murder, oppression after US withdrawal "If the Taliban returns to power, I along with other women who work in the government will either be stoned to death or executed in public."These memories are invariably the stuff of nightmares.

What we know: How did the Taliban retake Afghanistan so quickly? What's happening now?

An exit reminding some of Saigon

America's longest war began after the terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001, plotted by al-Qaida's Osama bin Laden, who was harbored by the Taliban government. A U.S.-led invasion forced the Taliban to retreat.

For some, the U.S. pullout was a reminder of America’s ignominious withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, which ended with images of U.S. helicopters evacuating Americans from the roof of the embassy in Saigon.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken flatly rejected such comparisons. "This is manifestly not Saigon," Blinken argued, characterizing the removal of embassy and other personnel as "very deliberate."

Still, analysts predicted that history would view the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan as a failure.

“On Day One, we go in, and the Taliban is in charge. Twenty years later, the Taliban is back in charge,” said Jack Weinstein, a former Pentagon official and expert on international security.

“I don’t know how you couch that as a victory,” he said.

Photos: Fear and uncertainty loom over Kabul as the Taliban takes charge in Afghanistan

  Photos: Fear and uncertainty loom over Kabul as the Taliban takes charge in Afghanistan The Taliban swept into Kabul and seized power on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

US responds: U.S. troops evacuate embassy staff to Kabul airport as Taliban encircles Afghan capital, Blinken says

Caught off-guard

Though Kabul had been expected to fall, the speed of its collapse clearly caught the Biden administration off-guard.

Afghanistan updates: Chaos at Kabul airport amid struggle to flee

  Afghanistan updates: Chaos at Kabul airport amid struggle to flee United States troops have taken control of the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, and world leaders are responding after the Taliban took control of the country. As the crisis intensifies, President Joe Biden on Monday cut his time at Camp David short and headed back to the White House to address the nation this afternoon on Afghanistan -- his first in nearly a week to speak publicly on the subject.

Biden set a deadline of Aug. 31 to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan and bring an end to the 20-year conflict. Last week, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.

Defying expectations, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in a short time, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the United States and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. The Afghans were defeated by the Taliban or fled much of the country, even though they had some air support from the U.S. military.

More: A timeline of the US withdrawal and Taliban reconquest of Afghanistan

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned Sunday the security situation was deteriorating and instructed American citizens to "shelter in place" amid reports of gunfire at the airport.  American troops were in the midst of evacuating all diplomatic staff from the embassy to the airport as the Taliban entered Kabul.

Ghani flew out of the country, according to multiple media outlets.

He offered an explanation in a Facebook post Sunday: "Today, I came across a hard choice; I should stand to face the armed Taliban who wanted to enter the palace or leave the dear country that I dedicated my life to protecting and protecting the past twenty years. ... The Taliban have made it to remove me, they are here to attack all Kabul and the people of Kabul. In order to avoid the bleeding flood, I thought it was best to get out."

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, criticized Ghani's exit. “The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation," Abdullah said. "God should hold him accountable.”

Defense secretaries in their own words: US 'invented reasons' to stay in Afghanistan

  Defense secretaries in their own words: US 'invented reasons' to stay in Afghanistan The Taliban blitz exposes the failure of the 20-year Afghanistan war and portends terrorism threats, say former defense secretaries Panetta and Hagel.Afghan security forces, trained and equipped at the cost of $83 billion, wilted before Taliban fighters. With few exceptions, the Taliban rolled through provincial capitals without a fight despite a force of Afghan troops that was supposed to number more than 300,000.  In reality, there were far fewer Afghan forces because of desertions and commanders who reportedly pocketed the pay of ghost soldiers they had kept on rolls. For those who remained and fought, there wasn't enough ammunition and food, to say nothing of pay.

Afghans fearing that the Taliban would reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings, the AP reported.

More: Taliban's Afghanistan advance tests Biden's 'America is back' foreign policy promise

Taliban remained strong

For years, U.S. and Afghan forces focused on controlling supply chains and major cities, forcing the Taliban into Afghanistan’s rugged hinterland. The Taliban remained strong in the mountainous rural areas, using those regions as bases of attack to seize territory once U.S. forces left.

The Taliban remained in control of strategic border crossings, according to The Associated Press, smuggling weapons and supplies while rejuvenating forces outside the country.

In February 2020, Washington under President Donald Trump signed a deal with the Taliban that limited direct military action against the insurgents. That allowed the fighters to gather strength and move quickly to seize areas when Biden announced his plans to withdraw all American forces by the end of this month.

More: Trump claims Afghanistan withdrawal would have been 'much more successful' if he were president. Would it?

a sign in front of a brick building: Taliban flags fly over the gate of the Ghazni provincial governor's house in southeastern Afghanistan on Aug. 15. © Gulabuddin Amiri, AP Taliban flags fly over the gate of the Ghazni provincial governor's house in southeastern Afghanistan on Aug. 15.

Taliban awaits 'peaceful transfer of Kabul city'

Sunday, Taliban negotiators in the capital discussed the transfer of power, said an Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, according to AP.

It remained unclear when that transfer would take place and who among the Taliban was negotiating. The negotiators on the government side included former President Hamid Karzai; Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-e-Islami political and paramilitary group; and Abdullah, who has been a vocal critic of Ghani.

The bursting 'Ka-bubble': Taliban extremism is remaking a once-cosmopolitan Kabul

  The bursting 'Ka-bubble': Taliban extremism is remaking a once-cosmopolitan Kabul Restless Kabul residents ponder what remains and what changes in the Afghan capital after more than a month of Taliban rule.Some would say it was less a place than a feeling, the sense that this metropolis — supercharged by billions in Western assistance — was somehow insulated from the daily battles grinding outside the city gates. That wasn't entirely true. Bombings, assassinations and attacks echoed through the capital over the years. But unlike the provinces and hinterlands, this messy city of markets, mosques and green Ford Ranger pickup trucks felt like a relatively safe space in a battered nation.

Karzai, with his three daughters, appeared in a video, saying he remained in Kabul.

“We are trying to solve the issue of Afghanistan with the Taliban leadership peacefully,” he said, while the roar of a passing helicopter could be heard overhead.

Taliban returns: Many fear it will again end Afghan human rights, support terrorism

Afghanistan’s acting defense minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, lashed out at Ghani.

“They tied our hands from behind and sold the country,” he wrote on Twitter. “Curse Ghani and his gang.”

Taliban fighters tried to calm residents of the capital, insisting they wouldn’t enter people’s homes or interfere with businesses. They said they’d offer an “amnesty” to those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces.

“No one’s life, property and dignity will be harmed, and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk,” the insurgents said in a statement, according to AP.

More: First group of Afghan interpreters who served with US troops are on their way to a new life in the US

Reports of brutality across Afghanistan

There have been reports of revenge killings and other brutal tactics in areas of the country the Taliban have seized. One female journalist, weeping, sent voice messages to colleagues after armed men entered her apartment building and banged on her door.

“What should I do? Should I call the police or Taliban?” Getee Azami cried. It wasn't clear what happened to her after that.

Many rushed to the Kabul airport, the last route out of the country after the Taliban took every border crossing. NATO said it was “helping to maintain operations at Kabul airport to keep Afghanistan connected with the world.”

a group of people walking down the street in front of a crowd: Afghans wait in line for hours to withdraw money in front of Kabul Bank in Afghanistan on Aug. 15. Taliban fighters entered Kabul, seeking the unconditional surrender of the central government. © Rahmat Gul, AP Afghans wait in line for hours to withdraw money in front of Kabul Bank in Afghanistan on Aug. 15. Taliban fighters entered Kabul, seeking the unconditional surrender of the central government.

One Afghan university student described feeling betrayed as she watched the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy.

“You failed the younger generation of Afghanistan,” said Aisha Khurram, 22, who is unsure whether she’ll be able to graduate in two months. “A generation ... raised in the modern Afghanistan were hoping to build the country with their own hands. They put blood, efforts and sweat into whatever we had right now."

Sunday began with the Taliban seizing the nearby city of Jalalabad – which had been the last major city besides the capital not in their hands. Afghan officials said the militants also took the capitals of Maidan Wardak, Khost, Kapisa and Parwan provinces, as well as the country's last government-held border post.

Later, Afghan forces at Bagram air base, home to a prison housing 5,000 inmates, surrendered to the Taliban, according to Bagram district chief Darwaish Raufi. The prison at the former U.S. base held both Taliban and Islamic State group fighters.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: After two decades and billions spent, Afghan government collapses as Taliban takes Kabul

The bursting 'Ka-bubble': Taliban extremism is remaking a once-cosmopolitan Kabul .
Restless Kabul residents ponder what remains and what changes in the Afghan capital after more than a month of Taliban rule.Some would say it was less a place than a feeling, the sense that this metropolis — supercharged by billions in Western assistance — was somehow insulated from the daily battles grinding outside the city gates. That wasn't entirely true. Bombings, assassinations and attacks echoed through the capital over the years. But unlike the provinces and hinterlands, this messy city of markets, mosques and green Ford Ranger pickup trucks felt like a relatively safe space in a battered nation.

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