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The Taliban seized control while Americans and NATO allies fled

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A man carries Taliban flags to sell at the Karte Mamorin area of Kabul city, Kabul on 22 August 2021. (Photo by Hoshang Hashimi / AFP)

The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was sold to the world as a necessary war to control Al Qaeda by removing the Taliban from power. Now almost 20 years later, the Taliban has effectively seized control of the country while the American led occupiers are rushing to escape.

The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was filled with failure after failure since the beginning, but under the fourth US president, it became a global disaster.

The United States says they have been training and strengthening the country's military and administration during the last decade or so, but it took about a fortnight for the Taliban to regain control of Afghanistan.

Thanks to our military and our allies, and the brave fighters of Afghanistan, the Taliban regime is coming to an end.

George W Bush, Former US President

The Afghan capital, Kabul, was the last major territory to fall with the collapse of the country's government as President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad.

The George W Bush administration started the war following the 911 attacks.

The early Barack Obama years were marked by an increased military presence which, purportedly, led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Donald Trump initially escalated engagement, but eventually withdrew some forces and helped initiate talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Government.

Joe Biden came into office with a commitment to ending the US war in Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 911.  His latest move is the redeployment of 5000 troops to help evacuated embassy personnel.

In his address to the American people US President Joe Biden said the US mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been a matter of nation building.

It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy; the United States apparently was heading in the opposite direction.

One of the reasons of rampant corruption in Afghanistan was the lack of people’s support and a proper resistance to the Taliban.

As we witnessed in videos and images, such corruption involved ethnic leaders and those who had fought the Soviet occupation and had expelled Russians with least available forces and equipment.

The same people turned into luxuriant [materialists] and started buying shares, firms and industries while the majority of Afghans were struggling with acute poverty.

There was also an organized corruption inside the Afghan army. They even deceived Americans who were providing financial support for training personnel.

The money they received was incongruent with what they were actually doing on the ground. Those who were trained did not perform well on the fronts.

A statement by Biden [US President] recently said they did not want to be in a war where they would fight while the Afghan army acts as an observer.

Americans had already reached a dead end, both politically and militarily. In terms of military, they had high fatality rate and the Afghan army was unsupportive while Americans were fighting a militant offensive.

I also concluded recently that with the exit of Americans, the Afghan armed forces would not resist any Taliban advances because some have no inclination and some others [are] following commands from the Taliban.

Mohsen Eslamzadeh, Iranian Documentary Filmmaker

Although many regions were scenes of bloodshed and bitter instances of violence, there were many parts across the country that witnessed a smooth and bloodless transition of power to the insurgents.

The surge of the Taliban was so fast that many personnel from different embassies and consulates are not yet out of the country and the chaos at the airport is increasingly costly.

The haphazard evacuation process may be a sign of terrible miscalculations by the Western intelligence agencies; they thought they had more time.

When the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in the 1980s, the governing structure they had put in place lasted many years.

The regime that the United States had created was thrashed in a matter of days, and they probably knew this would happen.

Trying to make their catastrophic failure less noticeable, much of the American efforts during the talks in Doha were aimed at coaxing the Taliban into sharing some of the power with the government of Ashraf Ghani.

However, at this point, since President Ghani fled the country in the first hours of the Taliban takeover, Washington has no leverage and the central government has no bargaining chip because the Taliban is making impressive advances in the battlefield.

We are currently experiencing sensitive scenario in the region. Afghanistan is known as the heart of Asia and having land links with countries such as China, Iran, Pakistan and several Central Asian nations. Even (the) Indians are concerned about the recent development.

To me, the most important thing is that China, Russia and Iran must play an active diplomacy and that the Taliban for the governance of their country should not tilt toward Persian Gulf Arab countries for financial support.

Since the Taliban are in the process of establishing international relations, they should be less attached to Americans in order to preserve the independence they had been seeking for.

Mohsen Eslamzadeh, Iranian Documentary Filmmaker

Almost the entirety of Afghanistan is now under Taliban rule, just as it was 20 years ago when the US invaded the country, but many people, including the Taliban itself, say this new era is different.

The Taliban political leadership said in Doha that they are not the same group that ruled Afghanistan in the 90s, however, a lot of people are not convinced because even the group's political leaders don't seem to have total control over the actions of the grassroots supporters.

The sudden push by the Taliban and its consequent flash takeover of the country by the militant group did not come as a surprise. Almost everybody expected it to happen.

The shock was its speed and its similarities to a well planned transition of power. Some cities were seized after hours of gunfights for each street or neighborhood, but in some parts of the country, the only shots heard where bullets fired into the air by Taliban militants, as they celebrated their victorious entry into the cities.

The most important step could have been taken to prevent this scenario [Taliban offensive] was possible two decades ago, the time the Taliban were struggling with internal weaknesses.

They must have been assimilated then through power-sharing. Unfortunately, neither the Americans nor the anti-Taliban groups could take such steps and the time such a process started in 2010-11 the Taliban had regained their power and intensified their attacks.

Experts had analyzed that neither Americans nor the Taliban were able to defeat each other because the time was gradually turning in favor of the militant group since it was scattered throughout the country and belonged to the land they were fighting for.

Mohsen Eslamzadeh, Iranian Documentary Filmmaker

After they secured control over the country the Taliban released a video and congratulated people on the new leadership and, contrary to what they are known for, the Taliban militants said it is now time for serenity in the country.

For now, the question asked by the people of Afghanistan is whether the return of the Taliban will also mark a return to the Taliban's old ways or whether the new era represents some fundamental transformations.

Clashes and casualties were reported in some regions such as the heavily defended northern city of Mazar Sharif, the country's fourth largest city, which government forces and two influential former strong men had pledged to defend.

 But the Taliban achieved most of its gains, not by fighting, but by persuading the officials and troops to surrender en masse.

The city of Jalal Abad, for instance, was conquered without any fights because the tribal elders had already negotiated a peaceful surrender before the Taliban marched into the key eastern city, which is also the capital of the Nangarhar province.

In fact concerns which are growing in Afghanistan are adverse today as citizens are too upset over the prevailing situation and the life they are struggling with. We request the international community help bring calm in the country so that people continue their everyday life with dignity. People are afraid and want to leave just because of what they are encountering.

 Kabul Resident #1

 The future depends on the Taliban. If they come up with people oriented policies and justice, the future of the country is bright.

 Kabul Resident #2

 Our desire is that The Taliban provide basic necessities and jobs. We are prepared to serve our country.

 The request of our engineers, doctors and other professionals to the Taliban and the International community is the same.

 Kabul Resident #3

 Over the past couple of days people have been concerned about the safety of their families. We feel we are in danger because of the current situation. Myself, as a singer and the rest of the people are in similar circumstances. But we are hopeful and want that this Afghanistan must not change again.

Kabul Resident #4

Elijah Magnier is a veteran war correspondent and senior political risk analyst. We asked him what he feels are the main reasons for the fall of Kabul?

The main reason for the fall of Kabul is the US occupation of the country relies on a corrupted government and they made no real contact with the population to be accepted because, obviously, they are an occupation force.

Therefore the population had enough of this corrupted government, one province after another was falling in the hands of Taliban, because they just wanted the Americans to leave, and the Americans showed that they have no control over the 300,000 strong Afghan army.

They spent 20 years in the country, training them and equipping them, and the army collapsed, and the President, Vice President, and most of the Afghan officers, fled the country in the first hours.

Elijah Magnier

Who or what could have prevented such an outcome?

Nothing could have prevented such eventuality because the occupier will end up leaving the country, no occupation force can stay in the country.

They can stay for one year for 10 for 20 at the end of the day they have to leave because they are, indeed, an occupation force.

So sooner or later the Americans had they choose to remain in the country that would have left after one month or one year or couple of years, because they were losing the war.

So nothing would prevent it, the Return of Kabul to the Afghan people and the departure of the NATO forces.

Elijah Magnier

What can the Afghan government do now, are we going to see a violent transition of power, or a kind of power sharing agreement?

The only choice for the Taliban forces today is to form a coalition where all the main ethnic groups participate in this government, otherwise they will fade, and there will be again instability in Afghanistan.

That is the only choice the Taliban has in front of them and I think they started the negotiation in Qatar, and what they need to include the Tajik and the Uzbek and the Pashtun in one government.

Elijah Magnier

What can we expect, what is the role or fate of the ordinary Afghan people under the next administration?

I think the Taliban said that they're going to pardon everybody and they issued three pardons in one week. It means they want to protect the infrastructure.

They want the police to return to work, and they want the normal employee to continue functioning, otherwise the whole state will collapse.

These employees are not part with or against the occupation forces, or with the American or with the Taliban.

They are workers and they are employees, and they are essential to the well functioning of the state and the police announced already that they have nothing to do with what's happening and with the politics, and they do their job, as usual, and this is a good step.

Elijah Magnier

The United States and NATO said they have been training the Afghan army for many years. How was it then that the Taliban managed to take over Kabul so swiftly?

The US forces, trained the Afghan 300,000 member of the army for 20 years and this army refused to fight and collapsed in one week. We've seen that in Mosul in Iraq, when they've trained the Iraqi army for 11 years, and it has collapsed in three days.

This Training offers nothing, it doesn't offer the ideology and the motivation to defend one country, how they can train an army when this army is under the occupation command, and they ask loyalty to an occupation force, rather than the loyalty to the country they live in.

This is why it's normal for this, the Afghan army to collapse, particularly when the US pro US President Ashraf Ghani left, and abandoned the country and escaped.

Elijah Magnier

What, in your opinion, should the regional countries, or the international community, do under the circumstances?

I think the region and country, and here we're talking about Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China, are different from the international community, the international community, once tried to create a model, like the international community and the Western culture in Afghanistan and they failed.

However, the regional countries don't want to impose their culture on Afghanistan, and we'd like to work with a good government in Afghanistan that is working to establish a good relationship with the region country [sic], what the regional countries are asking for from Afghanistan is stability, security, to make sure that the jihadists are not crossing from Afghanistan into Iran, or into China or Russia, and they want a good relationship.

The international community is asking Afghanistan to implement western values, which is not possible. So they have to find a way in between, to make sure that the sovereignty of Afghanistan is not violated and that Afghanistan is not in a bad term with everybody like Taliban used to be in the 1990s.

Elijah Magnier

How do you predict the future weeks for Afghanistan, will the American troops return?

I don't think the Americans will (ever) come back to West Asia because they have learned their lesson, and they know today that first they are not welcome, second that waging war on countries in the Middle East, like they've done in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and they tried in Iran resulted in the total failure of the US forces, and now they are pulling out, and I hope that they will leave Iraq soon.

Therefore, I think the Americans will never return with forces, however, that is not stopping them from using sanctions to starve the population.

That is the new war that the Americans are doing, and their partners the Europeans are following, and that is more dangerous than the military war.

Elijah Magnier


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