“”They want Americans out,” she said, referring to the Taliban. “So when it comes to us moving Americans out of the country, they’re happy to assist. They don’t want Americans in their country anyway.””
“Wilson said “there have been no problems at all” with Project Dynamo’s passengers.
“The Taliban have not been adversarial with us or threatening with us,” she said. “There were no problems with hitting and beating, the things that we saw in the early days when the military was still there.”
“The Taliban knew we were coming, they knew it was Americans, and they gave us safe passage.”
Last week Project Dynamo successfully evacuated more than 100 US citizens, green card holders, and Special Immigrant Visa holders from Kabul to Chicago.
But the journey took longer than expected after the Department of Homeland Security initially barred the plane from entering the US, citing a lengthy screening process and a measles outbreak as causes for concern.
The group, which included 59 children, was left stranded at Abu Dhabi airport for more than 24 hours with little food and having to sleep on floors.”
“In the final days before the Taliban finally managed to force their way into the central part of the city, many of Kandahar’s roadsides, rickshaws and storefronts were adorned with images of a famously brutal provincial police commander who had been assassinated three years before by the group.
The Taliban had loathed him like few others.
During his lifetime, Abdul Raziq Achakzai was accused by both international human rights organizations and Afghan-led ones of abuses including torture and extrajudicial killings. But during my visit of over a week between late July and early August, I heard significant nostalgia for both him and his harsh but allegedly effective ways.
“If Raziq had been here, the Taliban would not have dared to get this close to Kandahar” was a common refrain I heard from city inhabitants ranging from drivers to an adviser to the governor.”
“Unlike in Kabul or some other areas that were handed over after “negotiations” with local officials, people in Kandahar fought hard against the Taliban. A highly trained intelligence unit involved in the fighting known as “03” with men from other areas of the country also put up a major fight. But without U.S. air support, the city fell.”
““At its core — its ideology, the way it sees Islam, the way that it sees the imposition of religious law on society — [the Taliban] has not fundamentally changed as a movement,” said Vali R. Nasr, the Majid Khadduri professor of Middle East studies and international affairs at Johns Hopkins University.
In many ways, the Taliban remain opaque, and there are likely divides between their leadership and the soldiers on the battlefield. That makes it hard to predict exactly what Afghanistan’s future might look like under Taliban rule.”
“relatively little attention has been paid to what the Taliban victory will mean for one of the nation’s biggest accomplishments: the sharp decline in child and maternal mortality over the past two decades.
A study in The Lancet Global Health found that between 2003 and 2015, child mortality in Afghanistan fell by 29 percent. While maternal mortality is difficult to estimate, one data set found that deaths in childbirth fell from 1,140 per 100,000 in 2005 to 638 per 100,000 in 2017, or nearly in half.
This progress was not necessarily all generated by the US-led occupation, with aid from international organizations and Afghan-led initiatives contributing heavily; and these estimates rely on household surveys that are difficult to conduct well, especially in poor, war-torn countries with large nomadic populations, meaning they are likely off to some degree.”
“The best-case scenario would be a continued emphasis on the health of women and children, expansion of the developing public health sector — including nutrition, water, sanitation, and housing — and attention to the emerging problem with chronic or noncommunicable diseases.
The health workforce needs continuing support. Things can go bad if restriction of women, both as a health focus and in the workforce, occurs and ideology starts getting in the way of health programming. The health of Afghanistan cannot move forward without continuing external support, and this is likely to be required for some years to come, regardless of who is the government. A plunge back into war and instability is the very worst case imaginable for the health of the country”
“The latest domino to fall to the Taliban was the northern commercial hub of Mazar-e-Sharif. It was becoming clear that Kabul was next. Seasoned military officers expressed disbelief that the Afghan forces appeared ready to give up their capital city without a fight.
“Email was blowing up left and right [with people saying] ‘Wow, this is actually happening right now,’” a defense official said. “This thing just fell apart over the weekend.”
Pentagon officials were realizing far too late that the Taliban had waged an effective influence campaign in addition to the physical one, taking advantage of tribal dynamics to build ties with village elders and others who played key roles in the group’s mostly bloodless march across the country.
At the same time, the U.S. military had fewer than 2,500 troops left — not enough to understand just how fast the Afghan national army’s morale and cohesion was crumbling.”
“Biden’s cabinet members and their deputies had held some three-dozen “scenario planning” meetings following the president’s April announcement that U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
They covered everything from how to secure the U.S. Embassy and handle Afghan refugees to how to best position the U.S. military in the region in case things spun out of control. Many more sessions were held at the Pentagon, U.S. Central Command in Tampa, the State Department, and other agencies.
But it still wasn’t enough to prepare for the utter collapse, in a matter of days, of America’s two-decade, $2 trillion effort designed to prop up the Afghan government. Biden had insisted the Afghan military would fight; it largely hadn’t. Blinken had scoffed at the notion that Kabul would fall over a weekend; and yet it did. The “Saigon moment” Biden feared had arrived.”
Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars Ellen Knickmeyer. 8 14 2021. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-business-afghanistan-43d8f53b35e80ec18c130cd683e1a38f Exploring the Cost of the War in Afghanistan Neal Freyman. 8 15 2021. Morning Brew. https://www.morningbrew.com/daily/stories/2021/08/16/exploring-cost-war-afghanistan Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics National Archives.
““Is the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan inevitable?”
That’s the question a reporter put to President Joe Biden this week at a press conference on the US’s drawdown in Afghanistan.
“No, it is not,” Biden said, noting that Afghan government troops greatly outnumber the Taliban and are “as well-equipped as any army in the world.”
That may be true, but numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. The Taliban has rapidly expanded its territorial control over the last week and is closing in on the capital, Kabul. On Monday, more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers reportedly fled into neighboring Tajikistan to escape a Taliban advance. A US intelligence assessment has said the Afghan government could fall in six months once US and other international troops leave.
It makes it hard to see a Taliban takeover as anything other than extremely likely”
“It would be a mistake to get caught up in the collapse of provincial capitals because what has happened this week is just the continuation of what we’ve seen over the last three months.
Starting about three months ago, in late May and then June, picking up speed in July, the Taliban launched an offensive campaign that has swept across the country in a way that has been unprecedented since the US intervened in late 2001.”
“it’s not accurate to say the Taliban now controls all of the districts they’ve captured, because in many places they haven’t set up a shadow government. They haven’t left a garrison of their fighters to control the area. In some places, they cause the Afghan troops or police to run away, to surrender, to retreat, to simply go home.
In the end, what we can say is not how much the Taliban controls, but how much the Afghan government has lost.”
“the government has either been kicked out of or abandoned more than 200 of the 400 districts in the country. That’s happened in just the last three months.”
“For the longest time, the Afghan government has pointed to this district center map as a means of demonstrating their authority, when in reality, their only presence or assertion of authority might be a district center where they have a couple buildings that are protected by a small military or police force, or sometimes just a militia that’s outfitted and paid by the government. And that’s it. That is the only government that exists in that entire district, for miles around in any direction.”
“So when we ask, “How did we get here?” — where all of a sudden in one week, nine out of 34 provincial capitals fall to the Taliban, or seem like they’re on the verge of falling — the answer is, well, half of the country slipped out of the government’s control in the last three months, and it no longer had a buffer protecting those provincial capitals, which were these village outposts and district centers standing in the way.”
“The New York Times ran a piece and got someone to go on the record with something I’ve been told over the last couple of weeks. One Afghan government official told them some of these districts fell when 10 Taliban fighters showed up. A lot of this was just the collapse of government authority, and if it could collapse in the face of 10 Taliban fighters, we have to be honest: It was barely there to begin with.”
“It’s still too fluid to say they’re consolidating anything. What we can say is that they’re amassing huge numbers of their fighters to try and encircle or surround some of these cities. They’re doing it in multiple regions of the country: in the north, in the southwest. In some places, the government is pushing them back more effectively than others.”
“What they seem to be doing seems to be something they planned on for quite some time, which is to cut off the government’s ability to resupply other areas of the country, to cut off the government’s ability to move from point A to point B on the country’s roads, and to surround and choke off the country’s cities — not to fight their way through each and every city of the country, but to pressure the government to collapse.”
“Some people will say it’s because of the US withdrawal. And if that is true, it’s based on the psychological impact of that withdrawal, not the military effect that it had. The US had several thousand troops to help cover an area of the size of Texas. The US troops were not what was holding the Taliban back in 200 districts around the country. The US troops weren’t even out there at any of those villages.
Now, since the US-Taliban agreement was signed early last year, the US really scaled back its airstrikes against the Taliban, though they’ve picked them back up as the Taliban has gone on their offensive in the last three months. But for most of 2020, and the early months of this year, the US really wasn’t bombing the Taliban. That gave them a major reprieve from what had been a really intensive bombing campaign in 2018 and in 2019.”
“It’s too early to see the outcome. What is clear is that if the Afghan government is able to mount a strong defense of cities, if it is able to take back some of these border crossing points and maybe other strategic stretches of the country’s major roads and highways, if the Afghan government can put a stop to the Taliban’s advance and can stand firm — then it might be able to fight its way back to a stalemate, a military situation where there’s no clear winner, at least in the foreseeable future.”
“since the Obama administration, there was an acknowledgment among senior policymakers that the war was already unwinnable.”
“What we’ve seen in recent years was a situation that was clearly slipping out of the Afghan government’s control. And for much of that time, the US solution was to ramp up airstrikes to help keep the scales leveled out. But with the US’s thumb on the scale, that meant the years went by and nobody really wanted to acknowledge how much they had tilted out of the government’s favor.”
“Even in Biden’s remarks in mid-April, there was the suggestion that this withdrawal decision was made based on how hopeless the situation seemed. It was not the withdrawal that created an unwinnable situation. The withdrawal decision was made because in Biden’s assessment, the situation already was unwinnable.”