Afghanistan April-August 2021

Written by  //  December 10, 2021  //  Afghanistan, U.S.  //  Comments Off on Afghanistan April-August 2021

Afghanistan on Wednesday Night
The U.S. War in Afghanistan 1999 – 2021
The Taliban insurgency remains resilient nearly two decades after U.S.-led forces toppled its regime in what led to the United States’ longest war.
Council on Foreign Relations April 2021

Inside the Fall of Kabul
(NYT Magazine) The story of why it happened and what came after — by a reporter and photographer who witnessed it all.
As the U.S. withdrawal approached, analysts thought it would be months before the Taliban brought the fight to Kabul.
Instead, to the shock of the world, the Afghan capital fell in a matter of hours.

4 October
The Afghan government and the US lost popular support over corruption in Afghanistan, investigator general says
“Although we had predicted major problems … I think we were surprised, just like everybody else, at the speed to which the [Afghan] government and the military collapsed,” John Sopko, head of SIGAR, told The World.
In the report, SIGAR talks extensively about corruption. Can you highlight what was going on and could the US have done more to prevent it?
I think the US, and we highlighted the US could have done a lot more, and actually the US contributed a lot to the corruption in Afghanistan, because we spent too much money, too fast in too small a country, with too little oversight. So, the corruption was really endemic, and we’re not talking about corruption like you may see in the United States or Europe or elsewhere. We’re talking about corruption that’s actually baked into the system there. Money was being stolen from us and from all the other allies who contributed for years from the top, all the way down to the bottom.
So, what was the attitude of the Afghan government to this kind of thing that would inevitably lead to dysfunction?
The Afghan government did not take an active response to our criticism on corruption. And I think, in part, because the corruption was so endemic.

19 August
Afghanistan is not the country the Taliban last ruled. Will that matter?
Khaled Hosseini on the vastly changed cultural landscape the new regime faces
(WaPo)  For more than 20 years, the Taliban has systematically terrorized, brutalized, maimed and murdered its own people. It has bombed schools and hospitals. For two decades, it has slaughtered countless fellow Afghans — men, women and children, many of them poor, ordinary villagers. The last time the Taliban ran the country, it chopped hands for petty theft and executed accused adulterers publicly. The regime virtually imprisoned women, denied them proper health care and stole their right to education. It whipped them for daring to show their faces in public and beat them for walking outside without a male companion. It struck men publicly for the inadequate length of a beard. It robbed Afghans of the simple pleasures of life: music, art, dance, even kite fighting. It destroyed priceless historical artifacts. Who could forget the shouts of “Allah u Akbar” as the Taliban fired rockets at the beautiful Buddhas of Bamian, which dated to the 6th century?
Others, too, played their part in the tragedy that is Afghanistan today. Neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan, are complicit. Afghan leaders deserve great blame for their greed and corruption, for their inability to deliver services, and most important, for their failure to protect Afghan civilians against attacks from the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Then there are the Americans. The United States shares blame as well — and not merely for the strategic missteps and miscalculations that doomed Operation Enduring Freedom. … But the Americans are gone and the Taliban is back. And the Afghan people are frightened.
Maybe the Taliban has noticed that the country it has conquered in 2021 is not the one it decamped from in 2001 — … while the Taliban was busy launching RPGs at police cadets, the country was transforming. Over the last 20 years, Afghanistan formed a robust base of educated urban professionals. Young Afghans, male and female, went to school and learned to code. They became software engineers and programmers. Via social media, they engaged with the outside world on human rights, the environment, and racial and social justice. While the Taliban occupied itself firing at Afghan soldiers, young Afghans learned guitar and drums and formed alt-rock garage bands. They bought millions of cellphones and texted their votes for their favorite performers on “Afghan Star,” the country’s version of “American Idol.” By 2020, more than 9.5 million children were enrolled in school, 39 percent of them girls — compared with only 900,000 in 2001, overwhelmingly boys. Young women entered the workforce to help rebuild a country the Taliban left decimated and bankrupt. Afghan life expectancy rose from 56 in 2001 to 65 in 2021. The mortality rate for children under the age of 5 dropped by 50 percent. Thousands of miles of road were built — hospitals, schools and mosques, too. The Taliban knows them. It bombed many of them.
… perhaps, in these 20 years, the Taliban changed as well. Perhaps it sees the wisdom of inclusive, more moderate methods. After all, it is one thing to conquer a nation but a whole other matter to govern it. In the 1990s, too, the Taliban took control of the struggling country with ease, but it left Afghanistan in 2001 in near-total economic collapse. Today, wouldn’t the know-how and education of young Afghans serve the Taliban well to rebuild civil society and steer the nation toward a more stable and prosperous future? Couldn’t it use the grit of determined young women like education activist Pashtana Durrani, 23, who vows to start an underground school if the Taliban limits teachers? Wouldn’t women like her make for formidable partners? Wouldn’t inviting them to play a meaningful part in rebuilding the country win the Taliban lasting good will at home and eventually even abroad?
Maybe the Taliban is not prioritizing those things. But it should — if not for the good of ordinary Afghans, then for its own. Moderation and inclusivity would help secure its place as a credible player in the region and help ensure its durability far more than whips and guns and gallows.
In all likelihood, this is an exercise in wishful thinking

17 August
Taliban says no one will use Afghan territory to launch attacks
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says group won’t allow territory ‘to be used against anybody or any country’.
By Zaheena Rasheed, Arwa Ibrahim and Usaid Siddiqui
(Al Jazeera) The Taliban held its first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring on Tuesday it wished for peaceful relations with other countries.
“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said.
The spokesman asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the framework of Islam.
The group previously declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos at its airport as thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.
The Taliban has meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.
China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.

Taliban’s de facto leader arrives in Afghanistan as group declares ‘amnesty’ for government officials
(WaPo) Taliban co-founder and de facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday for the first time in more than a decade, returning to the group’s birthplace in the southern city of Kandahar just days after his fighters swept to power across the country.
His homecoming signaled a consolidation of Taliban rule amid a near-total surrender of Afghan government forces and the chaotic withdrawal of Western troops and diplomats in recent days. The Taliban on Tuesday announced a general amnesty for government officials and ordered fighters to maintain discipline as an uneasy calm settled over the capital, Kabul.

More than 600 Afghans cram into one U.S. transport flight, as thousands flee Taliban
(WaPo) Hundreds of Afghan civilians managed to get on a U.S. Air Force cargo plane departing Afghanistan for Qatar on Sunday, some of them jumping onto the aircraft’s half-open ramp as they sought to flee a Taliban now in near-total control of the country.
An image of the estimated 640 souls aboard the C-17 aircraft showed them expressionless, numb and fatigued.
They were among the thousands of Afghans who ran out to the tarmac of Kabul’s airport since Sunday, seeking a ride out of Afghanistan as Taliban militants solidified their control of the country’s capital. Amid the chaos, some died trying to catch flights.

Thousands of Afghan rights workers at risk – UN
(Reuters) – The top United Nations human rights official expressed fear on Tuesday for the safety of thousands of Afghans who have worked on human rights issues, while the U.N. refugee agency called for a halt to forced deportation of Afghan asylum seekers.
Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said it had issued a ‘non-return advisory’ to states calling for a halt to forced returns of Afghan nationals including asylum seekers whose claims had been rejected.
Austria, which has insisted that it plans to keep deporting illegal immigrants back to Afghanistan even as the Taliban seized Kabul, on Monday suggested setting up “deportation centres” in nearby countries as an alternative.

16 August
A fearful silence descends on Afghanistan
Graeme Smith
(Globe & Mail) Some people feel relief about the conclusion to the deadliest war in the world. As a consultant, I’m sometimes asked to write scenarios about what could happen next in Afghanistan. Until recently, the most likely answer was that the country would suffer an escalating civil war, killing tens of thousands of people each year and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. The Taliban’s abrupt victory has reduced the chances of a deeper bloodbath.
That fact will not bring any comfort to the Afghans on the losing side of the war, or any Afghans whose dreams for their future are different from those of the Taliban.
On my last visit in 2019, to film the documentary Ghosts of Afghanistan, I was struck by the deep polarization of the society. We met Afghan feminists in Kabul who claimed they would never compromise with the Taliban point of view, and we also sat down for tea with women wearing burkas in Kandahar who did not seem bothered by the prospect of the Taliban’s return. Their separate universes seemed, at the time, like they would remain on opposite sides of the battlefield.
With the Taliban in control, uncertainty and fear grip Afghanistan.
The day after the Taliban installed themselves in the presidential palace in Kabul, seizing control over Afghanistan two decades after being toppled from power by the U.S. military, fears intensified on Monday about a return to the Taliban’s brutal rule and the threat of reprisal killings.
In remarkable scenes broadcast on Al Jazeera, Taliban leaders ensconced themselves in the palace only hours after Mr. Ghani fled — taking control over what was once one of the most secure locations in the country and a symbol of the nation that the United States spent so much money and sacrificed so much blood to uphold.
Though not a formal surrender, it might as well have been.
The Atlantic:
Trump is gone, but “America First” still reigns. Biden’s speech this afternoon “was an elegant articulation of the same foreign policy his predecessor pursued,” David A. Graham argues.
Biden’s betrayal will live in infamy. “Today, the U.S. government is more focused on saving our own than on saving the Afghans who counted on us,” George Packer explains. “For many of them, time is running out. For some, it already has.”
But maybe the president made the right choice. “Critics of President Biden are engaging in fantasies amid Kabul’s collapse,” argues Daniel Silverberg, a former Department of Defense official. “These criticisms ignore the developments of the past decade.”

15-16 August
Taliban says Afghanistan war over as president flees: Live
More than 60 countries call for safe departure of Afghans and foreigners as Taliban takes over Kabul’s presidential palace.
(Al Jazeera) Panic and fear gripped Kabul on Monday as heavily armed Taliban fighters took control of the abandoned presidential palace and Western nations scrambled to evacuate their citizens. Hundreds of Afghans desperate to leave the country also flooded the Kabul airport.
A spokesman for Taliban’s political office told Al Jazeera the group did not want to live in isolation and said the type and form of the new government in Afghanistan would be made clear soon.
Mohammad Naeem also called for peaceful international relations.
POLITICO Playbook: How the White House wants to spin the fall of Kabul
By Tara Palmeri
Today, the fall of Kabul appears imminent. Taliban forces have effectively seized control after entering the capital city. They seek a full and unconditional surrender of the government. Afghan President ASHRAF GHANI has reportedly fled the country. In Kabul, “helicopters buzzed overhead to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy, while smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents,” the AP reports from the ground, while “civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings.”
And amid all of that, the White House is caught between its desire to spin what’s happening and a reality on the ground that is so clear that it’s hard to spin. And everything coming out of the administration this morning shows the difficult place they’re in.
Afghan President Ghani flees country as Taliban surrounds Kabul
Ashraf Ghani leaves Afghanistan hours after Taliban ordered its fighters to wait on the outskirts of the capital.
(Al Jazeera) Afghanistan’s embattled president has left the country, joining his fellow citizens and foreigners in a stampede fleeing the advancing Taliban and signalling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.
Taliban enters Afghanistan’s capital
.In a nationwide offensive in the past week, the Taliban has defeated, co-opted, or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country
The Taliban have begun entering Kabul, Afghanistan’s interior ministry and the armed group said.
The development on Sunday came just hours after the group seized control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad, securing critical roads connecting the country to Pakistan.
Taliban leader says group’s fighters were ordered to offer safe passage to anyone looking to leave Kabul
Does the Great Retreat from Afghanistan Mark the End of the American Era?
It’s a dishonorable end that weakens U.S. standing in the world, perhaps irrevocably.
By Robin Wright

The Withdrawal From Afghanistan Was Destined for Disaster
By Jonah Shepp
(New York) The U.S. intelligence assessment from June that warned of a total Taliban victory within six to 12 months of the withdrawal of American troops has been revised sharply downward: first to one to three months, then to as little as 72 hours. Given the shocking momentum of the Taliban advance, it would not be surprising to see Kabul fall within a day.
Though the Taliban says it has instructed its fighters not to attack Kabul and wait for the Afghan government’s surrender, they have been paying little heed to international calls for a peaceful transition or the preservation of human rights during their offensive thus far. They are already reportedly imposing their draconian rules on the cities they occupy — burqas for women, no education for girls, no smartphones — and threatening those who break them. Meanwhile, Afghan national forces are barely putting up a fight; in city after city, soldiers and officials of the U.S.-backed Afghan government have surrendered to the Taliban after putting up a token resistance at best.

14 August
Taliban at door of Afghan capital after eastern city falls, US starts evacuating embassy
(Reuters) “There are no clashes taking place right now in Jalalabad because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban,” a Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters. “Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives.”
A second security official in the city said the Taliban had agreed to give safe passage to government officials and security forces while they leave Jalalabad. The decision to surrender was taken to avoid “casualties and destruction”, the official said.
Afghan government seeks to hold capital as Taliban takes Jalalabad
Biden authorizes additional troops to Kabul as Taliban closes in on capital
The increased deployment came as U.S. diplomats appealed to the Taliban to halt its advance or risk a direct confrontation with the American force.
(WaPo) With the Afghan capital among the few areas left to conquer, President Biden warned that any moves to threaten American personnel or interests there would be met with a “swift and strong” U.S. military response from thousands of American troops flooding into the city.
Biden, in his first public statement since the administration on Thursday announced the deployment of 3,000 troops to aid in the evacuation of American diplomats and civilians and Afghans who have aided the U.S. government, said the force being dispatched to Kabul would grow to 5,000.
Biden administration scrambled as its orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan unraveled
The urgency bordering on panic laid bare how the president’s strategy for ending the 20-year U.S. military effort — leaving Afghan forces to hold off the Taliban for months as negotiators redoubled efforts to hammer out a peace deal — has undergone a rapid dismantling.
The lightning collapse is rooted in misplaced assumptions — including a failure to account for how the U.S. departure would catalyze a crisis of confidence in Afghan leaders and security forcers, enabling the Taliban blitz — from the moment Biden announced the withdrawal this spring. It is equally the product of two decades of miscalculations about transforming Afghanistan and overly optimistic assessments of progress that have plagued the war from its start.
Fearing Kabul’s Fall, U.S. Officials Implore Afghans to ‘Fight’
The calls to action underscore the stark reality that the United States has no intention of rescuing government forces.
Afghan president pledges to stop bloodshed as Taliban nears Kabul
Ashraf Ghani says ‘consultations with partners’ under way as Taliban continues rapid offensive to capture more territory.
As Taliban tighten their grip, Kabul airport only way out
(AP) — As a Taliban offensive encircles the Afghan capital, there’s increasingly only one way out for those fleeing the war, and only one way in for U.S. troops sent to protect American diplomats still on the ground: Kabul’s international airport.
Taliban approach Kabul’s outskirts, attack north Afghan city

13 August
The Return of the Taliban
Their comeback has taken twenty years, but it is a classic example of a successful guerrilla war of attrition.
By Jon Lee Anderson
(The New Yorker) In April, President Joe Biden announced his intention to carry on with the withdrawal, and pull out forces by September 11th. However much he says that he does “not regret” his decision, his Presidency will be held responsible for whatever happens in Afghanistan now, and the key words that will forever be associated with the long American sojourn there will include hubris, ignorance, inevitability, betrayal, and failure.
The main errors were, first, to underestimate the adversaries and to presume that American technological superiority necessarily translated into mastery of the battlefield, and, second, to be culturally disdainful, rarely learning the languages or the customs of the local people. By the end of the first American decade in Afghanistan, it seemed evident that the Western counterinsurgency enterprise was doomed to fail, and not only because of the return of the Taliban in many rural parts of the country: the Americans and their NATO allies closed themselves off from Afghans in large regional bases, from which they operated in smaller units out of combat outposts, and distrust reined between them and their putative Afghan comrades.

12 August
Taliban tighten grip on approaches to Kabul in Afghanistan offensive
(The Guardian) The fall on Thursday night of Ghazni, 90 miles south of the capital and which sits on Highway 1 connecting Kabul and Kandahar, means the Taliban control the main strategic approaches from the north and south after the fall of Pul-e Khumri two days ago. In Herat, Afghanistan’s third city, there was also heavy fighting in the streets after the Taliban broke through lines held by Afghan government forces and local warlord Ismail Khan on Thursday, with heavy clashes taking place around the governor’s mansion.
Canadian special forces ready to evacuate embassy after Kandahar falls to the Taliban
(CBC) The highly-trained soldiers are expected to work alongside allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which are sending thousands of troops to the Afghan capital to aid in the partial evacuation of their embassies as security throughout the war-torn country rapidly deteriorates.
Taliban reportedly hunting down those who worked for western forces
In areas conquered by the Taliban recently, humanitarian groups — notably Human Rights Watch — have reported militants executing prisoners and hunting down people who worked for western forces and civilian agencies.
Canada has been working to bring some of those Afghan workers to Canada under a special immigration program.
A first government flight carrying dozens of Afghans who assisted the Canadian military during the war in Afghanistan arrived in Toronto.
(Globe & Mail) Retired corporal Tim Laidler, [who now heads the Institute for Veterans Education and Transition at the University of British Columbia]  has been one of many Canadian veterans working to help former interpreters and their families come to Canada… said he is aware of hundreds of Afghans trapped in Kabul who worked with Canada and have applied for help and are desperate to escape the Taliban. Laidler expressed concern that Canada would “cut and run” from Afghanistan, leaving the interpreters and their families behind. More
US and others laying groundwork for Afghan embassy evacuations
Plans being considered in event of Kabul falling to Taliban, as US and Turkey negotiate on airport security … It follows a US intelligence assessment that Kabul could be overrun in 30 to 90 days and a warning for US citizens to leave the country “immediately” in whatever way they can.
Taliban tighten control of Afghan north as UN fears erasure of human rights

10 August
‘Please pray for me’: female reporter being hunted by the Taliban tells her story
A young female journalist describes the panic and fear of being forced into hiding as cities across Afghanistan fall
by Anonymous
(The Guardian) I’m not safe because I’m a 22-year-old woman and I know that the Taliban are forcing families to give their daughters as wives for their fighters. I’m also not safe because I’m a news journalist and I know the Taliban will come looking for me and all of my colleagues.
The Taliban are already seeking out people they want to target. At the weekend my manager called me and asked me not to answer any unknown number. He said that we, especially the women, should hide, and escape the city if we could.
As I was packing I could hear bullets and rockets. Planes and helicopters were flying low over our heads. There was fighting on the streets right outside the house. My uncle offered to help get me to a safe place, so I grabbed my phone and a chadari (the full Afghan burqa) and left. My parents would not leave even though our house was now on the frontline of the battle for the city. As the rocket fire intensified they pleaded for me to leave because they knew the routes out of the city would soon be shut. So I left them behind and fled with my uncle. I haven’t spoken to them since as the phones are not working in the city any more.
9 August
How Joe Biden Could Save Tens of Thousands of Afghan Allies
As the Afghan government teeters on the brink, what can the U.S. learn from its departure from Saigon in 1975? Before the fall of Saigon, two American diplomats risked their careers to save Vietnamese imperilled by a slow-moving bureaucracy.
(The New Yorker) President Ford ignored public opinion and ordered a massive resettlement operation, telling the country that “to do less would have added moral shame to humiliation.” Within a few months, the same bureaucracy that had reacted so languorously to the spiralling humanitarian crisis resettled a hundred and thirty thousand Vietnamese in the United States. It turns out that the federal government can be stunningly efficient when a President provides political cover.
On July 30th, the first flight carrying Afghan interpreters landed in Virginia, a happy sight that raises as many questions as it answers. The plane carried about two hundred Afghan interpreters. U.S. officials currently plan to evacuate a group of about seven hundred and fifty directly to the United States, with their families. Roughly twenty thousand Afghan interpreters—more than twenty-five times that number—have applied for U.S. visas and are awaiting a decision. So are their family members. Why isn’t the evacuation being vastly expanded? The Administration seems to have no answer.

6 August
Taliban kills head of Afghanistan gov’t media department
(Al Jazeera) Taliban fighters have assassinated the Afghanistan government’s top media and information officer in the capital, Kabul, the group’s spokesman and Afghan officials said.
The killing on Friday of Dawa Khan Minapal, the head of the government media and information centre, came days after the Taliban warned it would target senior administration officials in retaliation for increased air raids.
Minapal had also served as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman.
“He was well known to Afghan journalists, a member of the inner circle of President Ghani”, said Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Kabul.
Afghanistan war: Taliban capture regional capital Zaranj
(BBC) A city in southwestern Afghanistan has become the country’s first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in recent years.
Multiple local officials said the Taliban had captured Zaranj, in Nimroz province, on Friday afternoon, in a major blow to government forces.
The militants continue to make rapid advances in the country, as foreign troops withdraw.
They have taken swathes of countryside and are now targeting key cities.
Other provincial capitals under pressure include Herat in the west, and the southern city of Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province.
Zaranj is a major trading hub near the border with Iran. After capturing surrounding districts, the militants made a sustained bid to seize the city.

4 August
First flight bringing Afghans who helped military arrives in Canada, with more still to come

3 August
Not Canada’s finest hour
Afghan interpreters call for a faster resettlement program
The federal government is hoping to resettle Afghans who helped with Canada’s 13-year military mission in Afghanistan. The Taliban has tightened its grip on the country, putting those who assisted Canada, the United States and other allied countries during the war, along with their families, at risk of reprisals.
Over 800 Afghans who worked with Canada have settled here over the past decade, according to the government. But many who are eligible for resettlement — including former security personnel, drivers and cooks — are still in Afghanistan.
Kevin Newman post on LinkedIn
“No time left for all the paperwork hurdles Immigration Canåda has put in the way of a rescue mission for Afghan interpreters and hopefully other staff who supported CAF and are targeted by Taliban. Events are now outrunning the existing plan. Make a new one that gets them to safety first – otherwise Canåda will have earned a reputation for abandoning allies to be slaughtered.”

2 August
Thousands more Afghans can resettle in U.S. as refugees, says State Dept.
(Reuters) – Thousands more Afghans who may be targets of Taliban violence due to their U.S. affiliations will have the opportunity to resettle as refugees in the United States under a new program announced by the State Department on Monday.
Those who worked as employees of contractors, locally employed staff and interpreters and translators for the U.S. government or armed forces are eligible for the new designation, as well as Afghans employed by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization (NGO), the State Department said.

31 July
As Fears Grip Afghanistan, Hundreds of Thousands Flee
With the Taliban sweeping across much of the country, at least 30,000 Afghans are leaving each week. Many more have been displaced within Afghanistan’s borders.
The Taliban ‘mutilated’ the body of Reuters photographer after he was killed in Afghanistan – stoking fears they will re-assert barbaric rule over the country after US withdrawal
A fog of uncertainty looms over Afghanistan
(Al Jazeera) The people feel stuck between a corrupt government and a brutal, violent, oppressive Taliban that is gaining ground.
As the Taliban closes in, Afghan forces scramble to defend prisons holding thousands of militants
(WaPo) Huddled in brightly lit yards late one recent night, hundreds of inmates taunted a team of about a dozen special forces who were rounding the walls along the top of Kunduz prison.
Taliban fighters planned to storm the compound that evening, according to information gathered by local intelligence officers. Government forces hoped the show of force would spur prisoners — some in possession of smuggled cellphones used to communicate with the Taliban — to wave off the attack.
[T]he special forces’ move was a gamble. But it appeared to work: The night passed without incident.

29-30 July
Thousands to be eligible under new Canadian program to resettle former Afghan interpreters threatened by the Taliban
(The Star) On Friday, Ottawa launched a long-overdue plan to evacuate interpreters and civilians such as cooks, cleaners, drivers, security guards, construction workers and others who helped the Canadian militaries and at its embassy, along with their families.
The Trudeau government had been criticized for not having a plan to help the Afghan interpreters and civilians who worked for Canada, while its U.S. and coalition allies have been evacuating their local staff for their safety in the face of the Taliban’s encroachment.
Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for U.S. during its longest war
(Reuters) – Some 200 Afghans were set to begin new lives in the United States on Friday as an airlift got under way for translators and others who risk Taliban retaliation because they worked for the United States during its 20-year war in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
The first planeload of 200 evacuees arrived at Fort Lee, a military base in Virginia, for final paperwork processing and medical examinations.
The Afghans are being granted Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) entitling them to bring their families. As many as 50,000 or more people ultimately could be evacuated in “Operation Allies Refuge”.
Things go better with Chrystia Freeland!
Interprètes afghans: la vice-première ministre Chrystia Freeland promet d’agir vite
(Le Devoir) Les vétérans et les interprètes ont critiqué les nouvelles procédures d’immigration du Canada. Ils déplorent par exemple que la nouvelle demande, publiée en anglais, nécessite jusqu’à 10 numérisations de documents différents et requière le logiciel Adobe Acrobat, dans un pays où le taux d’alphabétisation est faible et où le service Internet est très inégal. Ils soutiennent aussi que des appels au bureau du ministre de l’Immigration ont été accueillis par un répondeur.
Ils se demandent par ailleurs si les membres de la famille élargie seront inclus dans cet effort d’immigration, car ils soutiennent que les talibans ciblent non seulement les conjoints et les enfants des interprètes, mais aussi leurs parents, frères et sœurs et autres proches.
‘Blind desperation’: Afghans rush to be included in Canadian resettlement program
(Globe & Mail) Afghans trying to come to Canada through the government’s new resettlement program have been frustrated by a difficult application process, …the program’s application process released this week has proved to be confusing and distressing for many people trying to get themselves and their families out of Afghanistan, and may in some cases be making an already tense situation even more dangerous.

28 July
Stop Assuming the Taliban Will Win (paywall)
With ethnic warlords reviving their militias, the Afghan war—even without the U.S. military—is more balanced than it seems.
By Anchal Vohra, Foreign Policy columnist and commentator on the Middle East based in Beirut.

China hosts Taliban leaders as U.S. withdraws troops from Afghanistan
(WaPo) China expressed support for the Taliban’s role in Afghanistan’s future while warning it to cut ties with a separatist movement in the Xinjiang region, in a clear expression of Beijing’s geopolitical goals in the Central Asian country.
Just days after meeting with top U.S. officials in the port city of Tianjin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed a nine-member delegation from the Taliban that included chief negotiator and top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. This comes amid the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which some experts and officials have warned could lead to political instability in the region.
According to a Foreign Ministry statement, Wang told Taliban leaders that America’s “hasty withdrawal” from Afghanistan is a mark of its policy failures in the country. China will not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, he said, adding that the Taliban is expected to “play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction” of the country.

22 July Updated 24 July
Canadian Veterans Fill Void to Help Afghans Who Once Worked With Them
Despite promises from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has yet to produce a plan to bring Afghan interpreters and other workers to the country.
(NYT) Frustrated by the lack of action by Canada to resettle Afghans who worked for the Canadian government in Afghanistan, some Canadian military veterans are using their own money, time and connections to get them into safer parts of Afghanistan.
With Western troops pulling out of Afghanistan and the Taliban tightening their grip, some 100 Afghans who once worked for Canada, and their families, now face the threat of reprisals. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, have repeatedly promised that a plan will be announced soon.
After Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar ended in 2011, the government offered a program that allowed 800 Afghans, mostly interpreters and their families, to settle in Canada. But several veterans remain critical of that program for excluding people who worked in other roles or who worked for government contractors. And in some cases, even interpreters were denied relocation for seemingly minor reasons.
Now, Canadian veterans are calling on Canada’s government to follow the lead of Britain, which began accelerating the relocation of its Afghan staff members in late May, by coming up with a new program to relocate its own former workers as quickly as possible.

20 July
Diplomatic Community Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas discuss the plight of the Afghan interpreters and the relative efforts of the U.S. and Canada to exfiltrate them. Is the Canadian government moving too slowly? Trudeau says Ottawa working to help Afghan interpreters come to Canada (14 July)

9-19 July
Foreign missions in Afghanistan call for Taliban ceasefire
Doha talks fail to reach ceasefire agreement
Clashes continue across Afghanistan
Afghan president visits western city under siege
(Reuters) – Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Afghanistan urged the Taliban on Monday to halt their military offensives just hours after the rival Afghan sides failed to agree on a ceasefire at a peace meeting in Doha.
A delegation of Afghan leaders met the Taliban’s political leadership in the Qatari capital over the weekend but the Taliban, in a statement late on Sunday, made no mention of a halt to Afghanistan’s escalating violence. read more

14 July
Taliban claim Afghan border crossing with Pakistan in major gain
Militants say they have made what could be their most significant advance in a nationwide offensive
(The Guardian) By the early hours of Wednesday, in a battle that took the lives of at least four Afghan soldiers and injured eight Taliban fighters, Taliban troops had taken full control of the city and the Afghan side of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing into Pakistan, one of the most crucial trade and travel routes between the two countries.
Taliban surge in north Afghanistan sends thousands fleeing
In the last 15 days, Taliban advances have driven more than 5,600 families from their homes, most of them in the northern reaches of the country, according to the government’s Refugee and Repatriations Ministry
(AP) —…around 50 families living in a makeshift camp on a rocky patch of land on the edge of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif…roast in plastic tents under scorching heat that reaches 44 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) at midday. There are no trees, and the only bathroom for the entire camp is a tattered tent pitched over a foul-smelling hole.
As the Taliban surge through northern Afghanistan — a traditional stronghold of U.S.-allied warlords and an area dominated by the country’s ethnic minorities — thousands of families…are fleeing their homes, fearful of living under the insurgents’ rule.
… A February 2020 agreement the Taliban signed with the United States reportedly prevents the insurgents from capturing provincial capitals. Yet two — Kandahar in the south and Badghis in the north — are under siege. In the capital of Kabul, where many fear an eventual Taliban assault, a rocket defense system has been installed, the Ministry of Interior said over the weekend. The statement offered no detail about its origin or cost.
9 July
Taliban Enter Kandahar City and Seize Border Posts
Taliban forces on Friday penetrated Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in a new phase of a sweeping insurgent offensive that has captured territory across the country since May 1, when U.S. forces began withdrawing.
The insurgents had been encroaching on Kandahar city, the capital of the province of the same name, for several weeks, capturing surrounding districts, before entering the city for the first time Friday.
Taliban captures key Afghan border crossing with Iran: Officials
Group continues advances as foreign forces withdraw, with sources saying some Afghan security officials have fled to Iran.
(Al Jazeera) Taliban fighters have seized control of a key district in western Afghanistan that includes an important border crossing with Iran, Afghan security officials said, as the armed group continues its rapid military advances around the country.
In the last week, the Taliban has overrun areas bordering five countries – Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan – as foreign forces end their 20-year intervention and the domestic security situation deteriorates.
Special Report: Afghan pilots assassinated by Taliban as U.S. withdraws
(Reuters) At least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months, according to two senior Afghan government officials. This series of targeted killings, which haven’t been previously reported, illustrate what U.S. and Afghan officials believe is a deliberate Taliban effort to destroy one of Afghanistan’s most valuable military assets: its corps of U.S.- and NATO-trained military pilots.
In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group…had started a program that will see Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.”
Afghan military pilots are particularly attractive assassination targets, current and former U.S. and Afghan officials say. They can strike Taliban forces massing for major attacks, shuttle commandos to missions and provide life-saving air cover for Afghan ground troops. Pilots take years to train and are hard to replace, representing an outsized blow to the country’s defenses with every loss.
Taliban says it controls most of Afghanistan, reassures Russia
The officials said the Taliban would do all it could to prevent Islamic State operating on Afghan territory and that it would also seek to wipe out drug production.
(Reuters) A Taliban delegation in Moscow said on Friday that the group controlled over 85% of territory in Afghanistan and reassured Russia it would not allow the country to be used as a platform to attack others.
Foreign forces, including the United States, are withdrawing after almost 20 years of fighting, a move that has emboldened Taliban insurgents to try to gain fresh territory in Afghanistan.
That has prompted hundreds of Afghan security personnel and refugees to flee across the border into neighbouring Tajikistan and raised fears in Moscow and other capitals that Islamist extremists could infiltrate Central Asia, a region Russia views as its backyard.

Heather Cox Richardson July 8, 2021
Today, President Joe Biden announced that the military mission of the United States in Afghanistan will end on August 31. We have been in that country for almost 20 years and have lost 2448 troops and personnel. Another 20,722 Americans have been wounded. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 35,000 to 40,000. The mission has cost more than a trillion dollars.
Leaving Afghanistan brings up just how much the world has changed in the past two decades.
In the years since 2001, three U.S. presidents have tried to strengthen the Afghan government to keep the nation from again becoming a staging ground for terrorists that could attack the U.S. But even a troop surge, like the one President Barack Obama launched into the region in 2009, could not permanently defeat the Taliban, well funded as it is by foreign investors, mining, opium, and a sophisticated tax system it operates in the shadow of the official government.
…Donald Trump, sent officials to negotiate with the Taliban, and in February 2020 the U.S. agreed to withdraw all U.S. troops, along with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, by May 1, so long as the Taliban stopped attacking U.S. troops and cut ties with terrorists.
The U.S. did not include the Afghan government in the talks that led to the deal, leaving it to negotiate its own terms with the Taliban after the U.S. had already announced it was heading home.
Biden has made it no secret that he was not comfortable with the seemingly endless engagement in Afghanistan, but he was also boxed in by Trump’s agreement.[Trump’s Deal To End War In Afghanistan Leaves Biden With ‘A Terrible Situation’] Meanwhile, by announcing the U.S. intentions, American officials took pressure off the Taliban to negotiate with Afghan leaders.
Today, the president explained that the withdrawal was taking place quicker than planned.

5-6 July
The long end of the 9/11 wars
(Politico Nightly) The U.S. military has officially completed 90 percent of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. Central Command said today. The White House said the final drawdown will be completed by the end of August.
The political ramifications of the end of America’s first post-9/11 war are hard to predict. The Taliban is taking hold again in Afghanistan, bolstered by the U.S. military’s exit. And, while the U.S. is looking at basing troops in Central Asia to help ensure Kabul doesn’t fall, Moscow is working to complicate the withdrawal.
Here’s how we can save Afghanistan from ruin even as we withdraw American troops
Michael E. O’Hanlon
(Brookings) Our own intelligence community has now joined the chorus of those predicting the violent defeat of the Afghan government within the year. More than 10% of Afghanistan’s districts (akin to American counties) have fallen to Taliban control since the Biden decision to pull out all forces.
Not only NATO troops but also outside contractors, needed for maintaining the Western-built aircraft and other vehicles we transferred to Afghan security forces over the years, are pulling up stakes. Afghan forces who see compatriots surrendering in other areas, and know there is little prospect of being reinforced if they are attacked, may lose heart and lay down their arms preemptively.
The fact that the Biden administration and key members of Congress welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his top leadership team to Washington recently provides some glimmer of hope that something may still be salvaged in Afghanistan, starting with sustained Western financial aid for Afghanistan’s security forces.
Even so, such historical analogies and friendly meetings will not suffice. Nor will a strategy that simply tries to hold onto the whole country in the face of the Taliban onslaught. The Afghan government needs a fallback plan that would allow for selective protection of large swaths, but not all, of the country. There are some signs it is moving in this direction. It has already eliminated some remote military checkpoints that were always indefensible and very difficult to resupply. More such thinking is needed.

  • New ways to sustain several thousand Western contractors in or near Afghanistan are needed, so that these technical experts may help maintain the Afghan helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft crucial for moving Afghanistan’s small but excellent special forces around the battlefield quickly, and coming to the aid of ground troops under concerted Taliban attack.
  • Some remote parts of the country’s south and east, especially in those Pashtun tribal belts most friendly to the Taliban, should alas be effectively conceded to the adversary. Again, some of this is already happening. Large parts of Helmand province, for example, belong in this category. Before becoming too despondent, though, it is worth remembering that comparatively few individuals from Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun ethnic groups – which collectively make up a majority of the population – support the Taliban in any way.
  • Once NATO’s ground troops are gone, NATO airpower based in the broader region might be used to help Afghanistan’s own fledgling air force support its troops on the ground when under concerted attack.
  • Certain areas that come under Taliban control should be counterattacked at some point, if and when Taliban leaders present inviting targets to Afghan forces.
  • The more suitable of Afghanistan’s many militias should be placed on government payroll and integrated into an overall campaign plan. Payments should be contingent on some measure of restraint and respect for innocent lives on the part of these groups.
  • A strategy for protecting key parts of Kabul should be developed in tactical detail. It might not prove possible to hold the whole capital.
  • Large camps should be prepared for those Afghans who become internally displaced due to fighting in their home regions or due to the brutality of Taliban rule that may result in some areas.

Ultimately, our hope must be that future Taliban leaders, as well as their Pakistani friends, realize that their dreams of a quick victory after NATO’s departure from Afghanistan were illusory. At that point – but probably only at that point – a future peace process may have a chance. Until then, our main goal must be to help Afghan friends prevent a takeover from a Taliban leadership that shows few genuine signs of breaking off ties to extremists, moderating its behavior, or compromising with the current government in the pursuit of peace.

Vacated by Americans, Kabul’s Bagram Air Base bustles again as Afghans move in
(Reuters) Outside the walls of the vast base, things are not as serene. The Taliban have ramped up offensives against Afghan government forces across the country, particularly in the north where insurgents have gained territory rapidly.
Al Jazeera paints a different picture
US left Bagram without telling new commander: Afghan officials
Before the Afghan army could take control of airfield, looters ransack barracks and rummage through storage tents.
Afghan soldiers who wandered throughout the base that had once seen as many as 100,000 US troops were deeply critical of how the US left Bagram.
“In one night they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,” said Afghan soldier Naematullah, who asked that only his one name be used.
Tajikistan calls up reservists to bolster border as Afghan troops flee Taliban
more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled across the frontier in response to Taliban militant advances. The crossings on Sunday underscored the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
The Taliban plan to present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government side as soon as next month, a spokesman for the Islamist insurgents said even as they make major territorial gains in the breach left by departing foreign forces.
Afghan gov’t welcomes move to ‘understand what they want’
Warring sides resume long-stalled peace talks in Qatar
Discussions to be ‘accelerated’ in coming days -Taliban
Taliban seizing ever more territory as foreign forces go

3 July
Biden Sends Dueling Messages on Afghanistan
The administration has sought to reassure Americans that it is ending “forever wars” while signaling to Afghans that the U.S. is not abandoning the beleaguered country.
Politico comments — NYT’s Eric Schmitt on Biden’s “dueling messages” on Afghanistan. The Biden administration is simultaneously seeking to “reassure the American public that its so-called forever wars are winding down, at least militarily, while trying to convince beleaguered Afghans that the United States is not abandoning the country at a moment when intelligence analysts assess that the government could fall in as few as six months to a resurgent Taliban,” writes Schmitt. “To listen to the White House and Pentagon, the exit of the last American combat troops from Bagram Air Base is not the end of the mission in Afghanistan. At least that was the signal to the Afghans. … The United States military will still help Afghan forces, just by teleconference from afar.” It’s sort of the Schrodinger’s cat of foreign policy messaging: We’re simultaneously pulling out of Afghanistan and not.
Opinion: Biden’s cold response to Afghanistan’s collapse will have far-reaching consequences
(WaPo) editorial board) When President Biden chose in April to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September, we were among those who judged that the result would be a disaster for the country’s 38 million people — and in particular, its women. Now, that tragedy appears to be unfolding more quickly than even many of the pessimists imagined. In recent weeks, Taliban forces have captured dozens of districts in a nationwide offensive, surrounding several provincial capitals and blocking key roads into Kabul. On Tuesday, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, met with reporters and warned with remarkable bluntness that “civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” adding: “That should be a concern for the world.”
It ought, at least, to be a concern for Mr. Biden, who inherited a difficult situation from President Donald Trump but chose to pull the plug on the U.S. mission rather than fix it. The president ought to be reconsidering the swift withdrawal he ordered in light of the incipient crumbling of an Afghan government and army that the United States spent two decades helping to build. Instead, he has been cold to the country’s plight. Last month, according to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Biden decided against slowing the withdrawal from the main U.S. air base in the country, Bagram, which some U.S. officials favored; the pullout was completed this week. Last Friday he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House in what was cast as a show of support, only to declare that Afghans would have to “decide their future.”
That future is likely to be bleak, if current trends continue. As U.S. advisers and air support melt away, Afghan army units are being wiped out by the Taliban, or are surrendering without a fight. In desperation, the government has invited ethnic militias to remobilize, risking a return to the anarchic conflict and banditry that plagued the country in the 1990s. Even with that support, the government may not be able to hold on; a U.S. intelligence community assessment that surfaced last week said it could fall within six to 12 months of the U.S. departure.
If that happens, not only Afghans will be at risk. According to the intelligence community and a study commissioned by Congress, al-Qaeda could reestablish bases in the country. Waves of refugees are likely to pour out, destabilizing neighbors such as Pakistan and massing at the borders of Europe. U.S. rivals such as Iran, China and Russia could draw the conclusion that Mr. Biden lacks the stomach to stand up for embattled U.S. allies such as Iraq, Taiwan and Ukraine.

30 June
Donald Rumsfeld, US defence chief during Iraq war, dead at 88
Rumsfeld, during his second stint as defence secretary in the early 2000s, was the architect of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld oversaw the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but failed to maintain law and order in the aftermath, and Iraq descended into chaos with a bloody insurgency and violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. US troops remained in Iraq until 2011, long after he left his post.
Many historians and military experts blamed Rumsfeld for decisions that led to difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

29 June
Top US general says security in Afghanistan deteriorating
For now, the US has the weapons and capability to aid Afghanistan forces being tested by a Taliban offensive, the US general says.
The United States’ top general in Afghanistan on Tuesday gave a sobering assessment of the country’s deteriorating security situation as the US winds down its so-called “forever war”.
General Austin Miller said the rapid loss of districts around the country to the Taliban — several with significant strategic value — is worrisome. He also cautioned that the militias deployed to help the beleaguered national security forces could lead the country into civil war.
US officials have said the pullout of US troops will most likely be completely finished by July 4 with a residual force remaining to protect the US embassy and international airport in Kabul.
As the U.S. Pulls Out of Afghanistan, Kabul’s Airport Is a Final Stand
With the main allied military air base about to close, negotiations are underway with Turkey about continuing to secure the civilian airport as the Taliban advance across the country.
Taliban fighters launch attack on Ghazni
Fighting with government forces in central Afghan city comes as foreign troops continue withdrawal from the country.
(Al Jazeera)Tuesday’s assault on Ghazni, on the highway linking the capital Kabul with the southern province of Kandahar, ramps up the Taliban’s offensive against the government and comes as foreign troops prepare to exit from the war-torn country in less than three months.
Violence surged after the United States and NATO military began the withdrawal of their last remaining troops to meet a September 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end the US’s longest war.
Since early May, the Taliban has launched several bloody offensives against government forces across the rugged countryside and says it has seized nearly 90 of the country’s more than 400 districts.

The People We’re Leaving Behind in Afghanistan
Young Afghans defied the Taliban and signed on to reconstruction efforts, only to learn that U.S. and NATO forces would be abruptly withdrawn.
By Steve Coll
(The New Yorker) In an age of renewed competition between dictatorships and democracies, self-reflective questioning about the integrity and the viability of the global human-rights regime—and how to strengthen it—could hardly be more urgent. Regarding Afghanistan, however, these are not questions in which the Biden Administration has shown much interest. Having made a risky and swift decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country this year, Joe Biden is understandably anxious to deflect responsibility for what may come next and to signal to Americans that it’s up to the Afghans now.

23-24 June
U.S. evacuation of Afghan interpreters, families could reach 50,000 people -U.S. lawmaker
(Reuters) – The evacuation by the United States of at-risk Afghan interpreters will include their family members for a total of as many as 50,000 people, a senior Republican congressman told Reuters on Thursday.
Calls grow to evacuate Afghans who helped US troops to Guam
(Al Jazeera) In the chaotic, final hours of the Vietnam War, the US evacuated thousands of South Vietnamese who supported the American mission and were at risk under the communist government.
With US and NATO forces facing a September 11 deadline to leave Afghanistan, many are recalling that desperate, hasty exodus as they urge the Biden administration to evacuate thousands of Afghans who worked as interpreters or otherwise helped US military operations there in the past two decades.
A special visa programme for those who helped the US in Afghanistan will not get those eligible out before NATO forces leave.
Calls grow to evacuate Afghans to Guam as US troops leave
(AP) Lawmakers have urged the administration to consider temporarily relocating Afghans who worked for American or NATO forces to a safe overseas location while their U.S. visas are processed. Some have suggested Guam, a U.S. territory that served a similar purpose after the Vietnam War. Kurdish refugees also were flown to the Pacific island in 1996 after the Gulf War.
Guam’s governor recently wrote to President Joe Biden to say the territory was ready to help if needed.

22 June
Taliban captures Afghanistan’s main Tajikistan border crossing
Some security forces abandon their posts and flee across the frontier as the Taliban seizes Shir Khan Bandar crossing.
(Al Jazeera) The seizure of Shir Khan Bandar, in the far north of Afghanistan about 50km (30 miles) from Kunduz city, is the most significant gain for the Taliban since it stepped up operations on May 1 when the US began the final stages of its troop withdrawal.
The attack comes as the UN special envoy on Afghanistan warned that Taliban fighters have taken more than 50 of 370 districts in the country since May and that increased conflict “means increased insecurity for many other countries, near and far”.

20 June
Catastrophe stalks Afghanistan as the US and UK dash for the exit
Simon Tisdall
Little has been achieved in 20 years of war, and as the Taliban regroup, ordinary Afghans brace for an uncertain future
(The Guardian) Fighting is currently spreading like a bushfire from district to district. There is no peace deal in place, no power-sharing, no intra-Afghan ceasefire, and growing fear of nationwide conflagration – and yet still the Americans are leaving.

19 June
Death of famed Afghan commander in Taliban massacre highlights the country’s struggles and fears
Col. Sohrab Azimi, a field commander in Afghan special forces that often rescue troops and retake outposts from Taliban attacks, symbolized the country’s best hope to fend off an insurgent takeover as U.S. troops began to withdraw from the fight.
Azimi, 31, and his squad of 22 men were massacred Wednesday by Taliban forces while defending a base in northern Faryab province and waiting for reinforcements. … in Faryab, one of numerous provinces where the Taliban has launched repeated assaults in recent months, the mass killing added to a deepening sense of despair and defeat. After weeks of attacks that wore down local security forces and led many to surrender, the highly trained commandos sent to save the day had been surrounded, isolated and mowed down en masse.
The loss unleashed a flood of emotions across social media — grief, anger and fear that even the nation’s most skilled defenders would be undercut by poor military leadership and the departure of Afghanistan’s major foreign military ally.

17 June
The United States Needs Central Asian Partners to Protect Afghanistan’s Future
Ambitious post-withdrawal hopes can’t be achieved without bases nearby.
(Foreign Policy) As the U.S. government begins the final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged that counterterrorism efforts as well as “diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.” But it is unclear how the United States and the international community will make good on those promises. Although the Afghan government may be able to survive in the near term, the security situation is almost certain to deteriorate, limiting access for both military and humanitarian assistance. If the United States is to mount an effective counterterrorism effort and facilitate crucial humanitarian assistance from the United Nations, it must focus its diplomatic efforts on finding partners in the region. Those partners are in Central Asia.

15 June
Afghan peace talks resume after months-long hiatus
The Afghan government and the Taliban met for peace negotiations in Qatar on Tuesday for the first time since talks stalled in April.
It followed a flurry of diplomacy that saw the United Nations’ Special Representative Deborah Lyons and U.S. Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha to jumpstart the moribund process this month.

12-14 June
NATO commits to training Afghan forces after U.S. withdrawal
It had been unclear whether the alliance would continue with the mission.
(Politico) The announcement ends speculation over what will happen to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan once U.S. and NATO forces leave the country by September. Pentagon officials have said the United States will end its own training program after the withdrawal, although Washington will continue funding the Afghan forces.
Biden heads to NATO amid friction over Afghanistan withdrawal
European officials say they are frustrated by what they saw as the Biden administration’s failure to sufficiently consult with allies ahead of the announcement.
European officials say they are frustrated by what they saw as the Biden administration’s failure to sufficiently consult with allies ahead of the announcement, and the decision to move from a conditions-based withdrawal to one based on the calendar.
NATO allies seek clarity on maintaining secure facilities in Afghanistan following troop withdrawal
With fewer than 100 days before the Sept. 11 deadline President Biden has set for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, allies in the two-decade-long war are anxiously awaiting U.S. guidance on what comes next.
The administration has issued broad commitments to maintaining its diplomatic presence and massive aid programs there, and to keeping terrorists from using Afghanistan as a launchpad for global attacks.
But NATO and other partners are increasingly concerned about the details, from how Kabul’s international airport and the main medical facility that diplomats and aid workers depend on will be kept operational and secure to where counterterrorism surveillance and other assets will be based outside Afghanistan.

7 June
UN envoy holds talks on Afghanistan in Tehran
(Tehran Times) UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on Afghanistan Jean Arnault discussed on Monday issues related to the latest developments in Afghanistan.
Heading a UN delegation, Arnault met with Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan.
During the meeting, the current developments in Afghanistan, including the dialogue process and the security situation in the country, were discussed.
Pointing out that Iran considers peace and security in Afghanistan as peace and security in the Islamic Republic, Taherian expressed Tehran’s support for the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

5 June
The Taliban Are Getting Stronger In Afghanistan As U.S. And NATO Forces Exit
(NPR) The Taliban have been accelerating a years-old trend of seizing districts since the U.S. scaled back its airstrikes in support of Afghan forces following the deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban in February last year, according to Jonathan Schroden, an expert at the Center for Naval Analyses in Arlington, Va.
“What you’re seeing the Taliban do now is not just taking rural areas, but taking rural areas that are increasingly closer to significant cities, provincial capitals, for example, and effectively surrounding them and also cutting the roads that connect to them.”
A recent quarterly inspector general report to Congress said, as of February, the Taliban had surrounded five provincial capitals, including Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. The insurgents have doubled their territory since 2018, according to Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who closely follows Taliban military gains. “And keep in mind: That was when U.S. forces were there,” he says.

27 May (Updated 20 June)
A Wave of Afghan Surrenders to the Taliban Picks Up Speed
Dozens of besieged outposts or bases, and four district centers, have given up to the insurgents this month, in an accelerating rural collapse as American troops leave.
(NYT)) Since May 1, at least 26 outposts and bases in just four provinces — Laghman, Baghlan, Wardak and Ghazni — have surrendered after such negotiations, according to village elders and government officials. With morale diving as American troops leave, and the Taliban seizing on each surrender as a propaganda victory, each collapse feeds the next in the Afghan countryside.
The Taliban have negotiated Afghan troop surrenders in the past, but never at the scale and pace of the base collapses this month in the four provinces extending east, north and west of Kabul. The tactic has removed hundreds of government forces from the battlefield, secured strategic territory and reaped weapons, ammunition and vehicles for the Taliban — often without firing a shot.

21 April
Turkey postpones Afghanistan peace summit over Taliban no-show
The international conference, deemed essential for war-torn country’s future amid escalating violence, now to be held after Ramadan.

14 April
Afghanistan: Biden calls for end to ‘America’s longest war’
(BBC) The US will continue to support Afghanistan after withdrawing all US troops, but not “militarily,” President Joe Biden has pledged.
“It is time to end America’s longest war,” he said in a speech from the White House room where US airstrikes there were first declared in 2001.
The pull-out is to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, officials say.
At least 2,500 US troops are part of the 9,600-strong Nato Afghan mission.

13 April
UN and partners announce Afghan peace summit will convene in Turkey this month
(UN News) The UN together with Turkey, and Qatar, announced on Tuesday that a high-level conference aimed at ending decades of conflict in Afghanistan will go ahead beginning on 24 April, bringing together representatives of both the Afghan Government and the Taliban.

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