Kabul has Fallen
By: Aashruti Vohra
In the face of the Taliban invasion of the Afghanistan capital city of Kabul on Sunday, elected head of state Ashraf Ghani fled the country. This led to the insurgent forces storming the presidential palace, almost unopposed earlier on Monday, and declaring the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan replete with its own flag.
It only took the Taliban just a little over 100 days since the official pullout of American troops began on May 1 to achieve a military coup.
The Taliban carried out a blitzkrieg sweep against the Ghani government. Presidential forces collapsed without the support of the US military, which was completing its withdrawal per the August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden. Since May 1, the US had agreed with the Taliban to avoid any conflict. The takeover force of 4,444 insurgents is causing mass panic in Kabul, as locals believe that the hardline Islamic brand imposed by the organisation during its 1996-2001 rule is set to return.
Former president Ghani said in a statement to the media, “The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen. They are now facing a new historical test. Either they will preserve the name and honour of Afghanistan or they will give priority to other places and networks,” adding that he left to prevent a “flood of bloodshed”.
As per local news agency Tolo News, Ghani had initially left for Tajikistan.
Securing the Emirate
After initially ordering fighters not to enter the capital, a Taliban spokesperson confirmed that Islamic rebels had entered various areas of Kabul to “ensure safety”. Three senior Taliban sources also told the AFP that their fighters have taken control of the presidential palace and are holding meetings in the capital.
Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada declared their ‘victory’, sitting at the former president's desk and surrounded by his men armed with AK-47s and SPAZ-12s.
Abdullah Abdullah, who led the peace process, said in a video on his Facebook page: “The former president of Afghanistan has left the country and put the people in this situation.” Ghani's removal was one of the main demands of the Taliban in the months of peace talks with the Americans, which were initiated in Doha, Qatar.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban and all parties to “act with restraint” and expressed the need to protect the rights of women and girls who suffered under the former Taliban regime. The UN also declared that the Security Council will hold a meeting on the Afghanistan crisis on Monday.
The exodus begins
People are concerned that there is a security vacuum in Kabul because thousands of police officers and other members of the armed forces have given up their posts, uniforms and even weapons, CNN reports.
With the help of thousands of its soldiers deployed in the capital to assist evacuations, the United States began transferring its Afghan citizens and personnel to the Kabul airport. A US defence official told NBC that hundreds of embassy employees have been evacuated from Afghanistan, and the airport is still open for commercial flights.
The US Embassy stated that there were “reports of a fire at an airport,” but it was not immediately confirmed.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the western alliance is working to keep the airport operational “to facilitate and coordinate evacuation” because foreign and Afghan nationals gathered at the facility to try to leave the country.
However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected the comparison with the chaotic departure of the United States from Saigon in 1975.
Visuals shared by the AFP showed thousands trying to get into Kabul’s only functioning airport. Some even tried to board planes as they took off, hanging on to the wheels and the landing gears. Videos show some of these stowaways falling to their deaths. So far, such incidents have claimed 27 lives, Tolo News reports.
Reports by local media also claim that the American forces had taken over the airport for close to 16 hours on Sunday, allowing the passage of only American flights for American or America approved high profile refugees such as politicians, army officials and journalists.
Thousands of refugees from cities that fell to the Taliban had been camping outside the city limits, A large number of these are working women or students who had been sent away by their families to escape forced ‘marriages’ with Taliban soldiers. Students of the University of Herat, which had a 60% female enrollment, were particularly hounded by the insurgents, Washington Post reports. The university building itself has been converted to a Taliban field headquarter.
Women form the single largest demographic group looking to escape Afghanistan. So far, the US has offered to take in 15,000 Afghan nationals, while Canada has offered to take in another 20,000 people. Both countries have prioritised women. India, too, has offered to help evacuate Sikh and Hindu religious minorities.
More US troops on the way?
The scale and speed of the advance of the insurgents shocked the United States, which had invested over $1 trillion in the country’s government and its ‘war against the Taliban’ over the past two decades.
Under pressure from Republican proponents who blame the current crisis on Biden’s withdrawal order, the American President has ordered the deployment of 1,000 more American soldiers to help ensure the evacuation of embassy employees and thousands of Afghans working for the US military, who are now worried about retaliation by the Taliban.
Considering the collapse of the Afghan Armed Forces, Biden’s decision to insist on withdrawing from the plan is subject to more and more scrutiny, but he insists that he has no choice and he will not “pass on” the war to another president.
As for now, the Afghanistan Government is left broken as the Taliban has captured everything in Kabul.
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