Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul is in shambles with residents and foreign nationals desperate to escape the country. People woke up to the government collapsing in the face of continuous attacks by the Taliban and President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country.
Details of his whereabouts are not confirmed but reports by Al Jazeera, citing a member of his staff, said he had flown to Tashkent in neighboring Uzbekistan.
On Sunday, August 15, the Taliban ordered their fighters to enter Kabul on the pretext of preventing chaos after security forces retreated. However, footage broadcast by television network Al Jazeera showed fighters inside the presidential palace, brandishing guns.
All the US Embassy staff have been transported to the airport and the US military has secured the perimeter and is in the process of taking over air traffic control to evacuate American and allied personnel from the country, according to a BBC report.
Panic prevailed in Kabul with residents making an anguished attempt to reach the airport with some abandoning their cars and walking miles on foot. Large queues formed at banks throughout the day as people sought to withdraw cash. Local MP Farzana Kocha told the BBC that people did not know what to do, with some running away or hiding in houses.
President Joe Biden told reporters that he does not regret his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, despite shocking gains by the Taliban. "Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over twenty years, we trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces. Afghan leaders have to come together," They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation," he added, reported CNBC.
More than 60 countries including the US and UK have issued a joint statement saying that the Afghan people "deserve to live in safety, security, and dignity", and that security and civil order should be restored immediately. They called out the Taliban to permit people who wish to depart to do and to keep roads, airports, and crossings open, as per The Tribune.
What Are India's Evacuation Plans?
It is learned that a fleet of C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force is kept on standby to undertake evacuation missions.
"The government is closely monitoring fast-paced developments in Afghanistan. We will not put the lives of our staff at the Indian Embassy in Kabul at any risk," said a source, as per an NDTV report.
On Sunday night, the last Air India commercial flight carrying 126 passengers left Kabul and landed in New Delhi late at night. India is planning to complete the evacuation of its staff and embassy personnel from Kabul in the next 48 hours as per a News 18 report which also stated that the Taliban may block 'almost all roads' leading to the airport. India plans to complete evacuating its nationals before the US completes its own withdrawal.
Why Has The US Endured A Long-Drawn War With Afghanistan?
Despite the raucous relationship between Afghanistan and America, the situation dwindled further after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed. US officials identified Islamist militant group Al-Qaeda, and its leader Osama Bin Laden, as responsible for the attack. At the time, Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, under the protection of the Taliban, the Islamists who had been in power since 1996.
The US intervened militarily when the Taliban refused to hand him over and retaliated by swiftly removing the Taliban with a vow to support democracy and eliminate the terrorist threat. Following this, the US militants retreated and later regrouped.
Allies of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) joined hands with the US and a new Afghan government took over in 2004. However, this could not curb the gruesome Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. In 2009, President Barack Obama's "troop surge" pushed back the Taliban but it was not long term.
In 2014, NATO's international forces seized their combat mission hence leaving the Afghan army responsible for the security of the land. The move gave the Taliban leverage to seize more territory.
Tentative talks between the US and the Taliban began, with the Afghan government's scare involvement and the agreement on a withdrawal came in February 2020 in Qatar. Despite this, the Taliban attacks persisted and they shifted their focus to Afghan security forces and civilians, and targeted assassinations, increasing their area of control.
Who Are The Taliban?
After the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, the Taliban emerged. An Islamist movement and a military organisation, the Taliban vowed to fight corruption and improve security, but also followed an austere form of Islam, according to inputs from a BBC report. They enforced their own version of Sharia (Islamic law) and implemented brutal punishments. For instance, men were made to grow beards, and women were compelled to wear a burkha. Forms of entertainment such as TV, music, and cinema were banned.
After they were overthrown by US troops, they regrouped in Pakistani border areas and are now considered invincible with up to 85,000 full-time fighters. By 1998, they had taken control of almost all of Afghanistan.