The Afghan government—or whatever approximation of a government they actually had—has fallen as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban took Kabul earlier today:
Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, confirmed earlier reports that Ghani had left Afghanistan.
“He left Afghanistan in a hard time, God hold him accountable,” Abdullah, a longtime rival of Ghani's, said in an online video.
Ghani’s team confirmed the departure to CNBC.
The Taliban ordered their fighters to enter Kabul because they believed police had deserted all their positions, a Taliban spokesman told NBC News, which could not confirm these claims.
The spokesman urged residents of the capital to remain calm.
Earlier, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighters would "be on standby on all entrances of Kabul until a peaceful and satisfactory transfer of power is agreed." In a separate statement to NBC News, a Taliban spokesman said that those entering Kabul were unarmed on instructions from senior commanders.
American politicians, including people who voted for the calamitous occupation of a country that no foreign army has ever successfully occupied, have tried to spin the Taliban's rapid takeover as some kind of intelligence failure. Josh Marshall points out the obvious flaw in that argument:
There’s no intelligence failure. We don’t need to pretend there is. Every actual report going back many years portrayed the Afghan army is thoroughly compromised by corruption and beset by chronically bad morale. Desertion was commonplace. This isn’t a surprise and we shouldn’t pretend it is.
Just what did we accomplish in 20 years? Absolutely nothing:
The Taliban’s political arm in Doha has claimed that they are no longer the bloody theocrats who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when accused criminals were publicly executed at Kabul’s football grounds, including women who were stoned to death for adultery. Their negotiators have stressed that there is no rule in Islam against the education of women, for example. Yet the disconnect between statements made from Qatar and what is being done by Taliban commanders in Afghanistan is now canyon-sized. In Herat, where 60% of the students at the university were women, they have reportedly already been ordered back to their homes. Female employees have been told to give up their jobs to male relatives. On the education of girls one Taliban commander, interviewed by the BBC, was crystal clear. “Not a single girl has gone to school in our village and our district… the facilities do not exist and we wouldn’t allow it anyway.”
Even the best possible outcome, where the Taliban’s leadership decides to show it is serious about reform, looks bleak. For sure, Afghanistan’s government has made only fitful progress in raising the quality of life for ordinary Afghans, even in cities, where it has had far more control than in the countryside. Its corruption has been deep and galling, and no doubt part of the reason the Taliban were able to conquer the country so effectively. Footage of Taliban soldiers walking through the opulent interiors of the captured house of Abdul Rashid Dostum, a warlord and former vice-president, who is said to have fled to Uzbekistan, underline the rottenness of the state. And yet, buoyed by a tsunami of aid money, the government did educate people, and few Afghans starved. As embassies close and foreigners flee, the aid that has sustained the country’s economy, and helped to educate its children, including girls, will now surely dry up. A humanitarian catastrophe could quickly follow.
Of course we accomplished nothing. President George W Bush never had a clear idea of what victory would look like, even with Colin Powell—the guy whose Rule #2 for armed conflict is "have a clear, attainable objective"—running the State Department.
And in case you already had trouble sleeping, the Department of Homeland Security has put out a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin that says, basically, the right wing nut jobs are about to go batshit:
- Through the remainder of 2021, racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists will remain a national threat priority for the United States. These extremists may seek to exploit the emergence of COVID-19 variants by viewing the potential re-establishment of public health restrictions across the United States as a rationale to conduct attacks. Pandemic-related stressors have contributed to increased societal strains and tensions, driving several plots by domestic violent extremists, and they may contribute to more violence this year.
- Law enforcement have expressed concerns that the broader sharing of false narratives and conspiracy theories will gain traction in mainstream environments, resulting in individuals or small groups embracing violent tactics to achieve their desired objectives. With a diverse array of threats, DHS is concerned that increased outbreaks of violence in some locations, as well as targeted attacks against law enforcement, may strain local resources.