Kabul’s Sudden Fall to Taliban Ends U.S. Era in Afghanistan

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Taliban fighters poured into the Afghan capital on Sunday amid scenes of panic and chaos, bringing a swift and surprising near the Afghan authorities and the 20-year American period within the nation.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan fled the nation, and a council of Afghan officers, together with former President Hamid Karzai, mentioned they’d open negotiations with the Taliban over the form of the insurgency’s takeover. By day’s finish, the insurgents had all however formally sealed their management of the complete nation.

The velocity and violence of the Taliban sweep by means of the countryside and cities the earlier week caught the American army and authorities flat-footed. Swiftly organized American army helicopter flights evacuated the sprawling American Embassy compound in Kabul, ferrying American diplomats and Afghan Embassy staff to the Kabul army airport. On the civilian airport subsequent door, Afghans wept as they begged airline staff to place their households on outbound business flights whilst most have been grounded in favor of army plane.

Amid occasional bursts of gunfire, the whump of American Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters overhead drowned out the thrum of visitors because the frenzied evacuation effort unfolded. Beneath, Kabul’s streets have been jammed with autos as panic set off a race to go away the town.

20 years after American troops invaded Afghanistan to root out Qaeda terrorists who attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, the American nation-building experiment was in ruins — undercut by misguided and sometimes contradictory insurance policies and by a relentless insurgency whose endurance had been profoundly underestimated by U.S. army planners.

Greater than 2,400 American troops gave their lives and hundreds extra have been wounded in an effort to construct a democratic Afghan authorities. Tens of hundreds of civilians died within the combating, and hundreds extra have been displaced from their houses. In current days alone, hundreds fled to Kabul because the Taliban superior by means of different cities at breakneck velocity.

In Washington, the velocity of the collapse took the Biden administration unexpectedly, officers mentioned — and left it with the belief that Mr. Biden will go down in historical past because the president who presided over a humiliating closing act in a protracted and bedeviled American chapter in Afghanistan.

Now, Afghans all of a sudden face the prospect of full domination by the Taliban once more. In areas the insurgents have lately conquered, there is no such thing as a signal they’ve turned away from the cruel Islamist code and rule by intimidation that characterised their authorities within the 1990s.

Within the heart of Kabul, folks started portray over ads and posters of girls at magnificence salons, already fearing the return of the Taliban’s conventional bans in opposition to pictures of people and in opposition to girls showing in public unveiled.

Contained in the vacated presidential palace, Al Jazeera broadcast what the community described as a information briefing delivered by Taliban commanders flanked by fighters with assault weapons. The community quoted the fighters as saying they have been working to safe Kabul in order that leaders in Qatar and outdoors the capital may return safely.

At 6:30 p.m., the Taliban issued a press release that their forces have been transferring into police districts in an effort to preserve safety in areas that had been deserted by the federal government safety forces. Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, posted the assertion on his Twitter feed.

“The Islamic Emirate ordered its forces to enter the areas of Kabul metropolis from which the enemy has left as a result of there’s threat of theft and theft,” the assertion mentioned, utilizing the Taliban’s title for his or her authorities. Taliban members had been ordered to not hurt civilians or enter particular person houses, it added. “Our forces are coming into Kabul metropolis with all warning.”

As darkness fell over Kabul, the US Embassy warned Individuals nonetheless in Kabul to shelter in place slightly than attempting to achieve the airport. Witnesses on the civilian home terminal mentioned they have been listening to occasional gunshots close by. Hundreds of individuals had crammed into the terminal and stuffed the parking tons, desperately looking for flights out.

Contained in the walled Inexperienced Zone in central Kabul, armored automobiles full of diplomats, help staff and personal safety contractors rushed to the American army command’s fortified compound close to the embassy to be airlifted to Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport. Others flocked to the Serena Resort, a tightly secured lodge widespread amongst foreigners.

As American and NATO troops started withdrawing in Could, Afghan safety forces swiftly collapsed, typically surrendering with out firing a shot. Many accepted Taliban affords of secure passage and money, typically relayed by village elders, and deserted weapons and gear confiscated by the Taliban.

“The lack of Afghan safety forces to defend their nation has performed a really highly effective position in what we’ve seen over the previous couple of weeks,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken informed NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

The American Embassy, the epicenter of American nation-building efforts, was shuttered by the top of the day on Sunday after delicate paperwork had been shredded or burned, officers mentioned. The American flag was lowered and transferred to the army airport staging space.

On the former NATO Resolute Help touchdown zone close to the U.S. Embassy compound, the deafening sound of helicopter after helicopter taking folks out of the Inexperienced Zone reverberated throughout the small airfield.

The touchdown zone tarmac was full of a constellation of uniforms from completely different nations. Contractors, diplomats and civilians have been all attempting to catch flights out. The United Nations Help Mission in Afghanistan moved its places of work to the airport.

As helicopters landed one after one other, army personnel handed out matchbox-size cardboard containers with ear plugs and corralled folks onto the choppers. Those that have been eligible to fly got particular bracelets denoting their standing as noncombatants.

However for hundreds of thousands of Afghans, together with tens of hundreds who assisted the U.S. efforts within the nation for years, there have been no bracelets. They have been marooned within the metropolis.

These have been the scenes the Biden administration had hoped to keep away from for concern of evoking comparisons to the determined helicopter airlift of Individuals and Vietnamese allies from a rooftop in Saigon as the town fell to North Vietnamese troops in April 1975.

Kabul’s streets have been clogged to a standstill by automobiles and taxis loaded with baggage and private objects as hundreds of Afghans raced to the airport. Some passengers deserted their autos and trudged by foot, lugging their baggage by means of the rutted streets.

Financial institution guards fired into the air to scatter throngs of Afghans attempting to withdraw money from a department that had shut down in central Kabul. Most outlets have been shuttered, slicing Afghans off from meals and different provides. Households crammed private mementos and clothes into suitcases, then deserted their houses as they pleaded and provided bribes to safe flights out of the town.

Some cops stripped off their uniforms and melted into the civilian inhabitants. A New York Instances journalist noticed a number of policemen give up to Taliban fighters. At Abdul Haq Sq. within the heart of the capital, 5 males who gave the impression to be Taliban fighters gathered as automobiles drove by displaying their assist for the militants.

In a Twitter put up addressed “Expensive countrymen,” Mr. Ghani mentioned he made the “laborious selection” to go away Afghanistan in an effort to forestall bloodshed. He referred to as on the Taliban to “shield the title and honor of Afghanistan.”

Mr. Ghani left in a airplane for Uzbekistan along with his spouse, Rula Ghani, and two shut aides, in keeping with a member of the Afghan delegation in Doha, Qatar, that has been in peace negotiations with the Taliban since final 12 months. The official requested to not recognized talking concerning the president’s actions.

Abdullah Abdullah, a bitter rival of Mr. Ghani who competed in opposition to him within the final two presidential elections, condemned Mr. Ghani for abandoning his countrymen at a second of disaster. “God will name him to account, and the folks of Afghanistan will make their judgment,” Mr. Abdullah, chairman of the Afghan delegation to peace talks in Qatar, mentioned in a Fb video.

Amid fears that the Taliban would shut down the unbiased information media in Kabul, as they’ve in different cities, native information shops reported that the Taliban had invited them to broadcast the takeover of the presidential palace compound.

With rumors rife and dependable info laborious to return by, the streets have been stuffed with scenes of panic and desperation.

“Greetings, the Taliban have reached the town. We’re escaping,” mentioned Sahraa Karimi, the top of Afghan Movie, in a put up shared extensively on Fb. Filming herself as she fled on foot, out of breath and clutching at her head scarf, she shouted at others to flee whereas they might.

Early within the day, senior Afghan politicians have been seen boarding planes at Kabul airport. Bagram Air Base was captured by Taliban forces noon on Sunday, as was the provincial city of Khost in jap Afghanistan, in keeping with Afghan information media experiences.

The autumn of two of Afghanistan’s most necessary cities — Mazar-i-Sharif within the north late Saturday and Jalalabad within the east on Sunday — would have been surprising per week in the past, however each occasions have been overshadowed Sunday by the panicked collapse of the federal government in Kabul.

On the town’s western reaches, a younger man waving a white Taliban flag was directing visitors as crowds gathered to look at the spectacle. At the very least one Kabul police district was seen being captured by the militants.

And because the solar set behind the mountains, extra Taliban fighters roared into the town on motorbikes, in police pickups and in a single American-made Humvee seized from Afghan safety forces. On prime of a large Coca-Cola billboard in the midst of a roundabout, the white Taliban flag fluttered within the nightfall.

As buildings that after housed diplomats and huge worldwide organizations emptied, a gaggle of plainclothes Afghan cops wandering the Inexperienced Zone noticed a chance. They knocked on the doorways at one compound and requested an Afghan man there if the place was empty — it was their time to loot, the police officer informed him.

It was solely eight days in the past {that a} distant provincial capital, Zaranj, within the far west, grew to become the primary to fall to the Taliban. Since then, one provincial capital after one other has collapsed because the American-trained Afghan safety forces surrendered, abandoned or just stripped off their uniforms and fled. Taliban movies confirmed militants driving American Humvees and waving M-16 rifles within the conquered cities.

On the Kabul airport on Sunday, two Marines standing on the tarmac acknowledged that they have been dwelling a second of historical past. Slightly earlier, they mentioned, they noticed somebody exit a helicopter whereas cradling a poorly folded American flag: It had simply been lowered from the shuttered embassy compound.

Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall, David E. Sanger, Lara Jakes and different staff of The New York Instances.

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