PICTURED: Taliban fighters take pictures with their weapons in the vacant presidential office in Kabul. PC: Taliban (disputed), retrieved from New York Post.
Story at a glance…
The first day of Taliban control saw a quiet Kabul, with some reporting persecution, others reporting none.
The crisis at the airport continues as the death toll mounts to 10, as nations evacuate their embassies, and refugees struggle to find rides.
High ranking politicians in the wake of Ghani’s flight have created a coalition to ease in the power transfer, while some nations keep embassies open.
KABUL, Afghanistan. August 16th, 2021. Several G7 nations, regional players, and the Taliban themselves, are beginning to lay down markers for future relations in a Taliban-led Afghanistan, and it started with President Biden.
In a speech, the president said “I stand squarely behind my decision,” adding that “after 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces”.
“So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country,” he recapped. “The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision”.
The situation at the Kabul airport is a chaotic one. Up to 6,000 U.S. troops have been authorized for deployment to seize the only international port of exit, with most due to arrive the coming two or three days. 2,500 troops currently hold the airport, where they caused mass confusion after shutting down commercial air travel and creating hordes of refugees.
Two men, who have been alleged to be gunmen, have been shot by U.S. forces so far, but nothing is confirmed. Other deaths, including two trying to hang on to the end of a C-17 aircraft, have taken the death toll to 10. Many countries are evacuating their diplomatic missions and embassies, sometimes taking scores of refugees with them, but some are staying.
Russian ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov, speaking with Tass admitted that based on the final hours compared with day one of the respective regimes, “the impressions are good. Now the situation in Kabul is better than it was under Ashraf Ghani. That is, it is better under the Taliban terrorists than under Ghani”.
China has also remained steady in their embassy building, welcoming friendly relations with the new government.
The U.S. on the other hand, who has spent more than two-trillion dollars on the longest war in her history, is attempting to lay out terms for how to move forward with relations under her vanquishers.
“A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people, that doesn’t harbor terrorists, and that protects the basic rights of its people, including the basic, fundamental rights of half of its population – its women and girls – that is a government that we would be able to work with,” State Dep. spokesperson Ned Price said during a news briefing.
“The converse is also true – that we are not going to support a government that does not do that”.
Long game short game
In Kabul the immediate aftermath of the Taliban takeover of the country has been filled with mixed reporting.
The nation’s principle news agency, TOLO News, one that’s been deeply critical of the Taliban, reported soldiers entering their broadcast headquarters, checking the weapons of the security staff, and confiscating those of government-issue before departing. No staff reported mistreatment of any kind.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the presumed president under a Taliban administration, said from his post in Doha, Qatar, that the next chapter would be a “test” for his Islamic Emirate.
“At this time we face a test because now we are responsible for the security of the people,” he said. The UN reported targeted killings, abuse of women, and other immediate crimes in Kabul, but few other news agencies have corroborated the reports.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said of the Taliban’s new found control in a press conference that “the world is watching,” but that he was “relieved to report” that in “large measure” UN staff and premises in Afghanistan have “been respected”.
He urged the Taliban to continue to “honor the integrity and inviolability of diplomatic envoys and premises”.
Among the Afghan political class, several key players since the beginning of the war have formed a coalition to aid in the political settlement and power transition. These included former president Hamid Karzai, High Council for National Reconciliation leader Abdullah Abdullah, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Islamic political party Hizb-e-Islami, part of the Northern Alliance of war criminals the U.S. allied herself with during the opening stages of the dispossession of the country from the Taliban.
During the February 2020 pre-peace agreement reached in Doha between the U.S. and the Taliban, former Sec. of State Mike Pompeo said that “the future of Afghanistan is for Afghans to determine,” which seems to finally be the case, after more than forty years of war, against the Soviet Union, against each other, against the U.S., and against each other again.