US retreat underway as Taliban retake control of Afghanistan
Nearly two full decades of lies and wishful thinking from U.S. generals, politicians, liberal interventionists, and neoconservative talking heads came into full view Sunday as the Taliban in Afghanistan surrounded Kabul while American military forces and diplomatic personnel rapidly evacuated the U.S. Embassy and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani negotiated a surrender and transition government with opposition forces.
With reports that Bagram Air Base and nearby Parwan Prison had both fallen out of Afghan government hands, Taliban spokeperson Suhail Shaheen told the BBC that his group expects a peaceful transfer of power within days and assured the people of Afghanistan, including those in Kabul, that retribution and revenge would not follow.
"We assure the people in Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone," Shaheen said.
The Taliban leadership, he continued, has "instructed our forces to remain at the gates of Kabul" and that they had no plans yet to to enter the city. "We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power," Shaheen said.
Asked to explain what a "peaceful transfer of power" means in practice, he said: "It means that the city and the power should be handed over to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and then, in future, we will have an Afghan inclusion Islamic government in which all Afghans will have participation."
A press statement issued from the Taliban echoed that message, urging Afghans not to flee their own country and vowing that both their lives and property would not be threatened.
JUST IN \u2014 Taliban statement on Kabul via @IeaOffice: \n\n\u2022 Ordering all forces to not enter Kabul \n\u2022 They want a transition process \n\u2022 Promising no retaliation against civilians or military\n\u2022 All are \u201cforgiven\u201d \n\u2022 \u201ceveryone should stay at home\u201dpic.twitter.com/piKYy2IF1z— Rag\u0131p Soylu (@Rag\u0131p Soylu) 1629014561
Subsequently—amid reports that President Ghani may have already left the country—Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal announced a "peaceful transfer of power" had been agreed to and that a transitional government was being formed.
"The Afghan people should not worry," Mirzakwal said in a recorded speech, according to Agence France-Presse.
"The safety of [Kabul] is guaranteed," he said."There will be no attack on the city, and the agreement is such that the transition of power will take place in a peaceful manner."
Reports emerging that Afghan President Ghani has left #Kabul and is flying to neighboring Tajikistan. \n\nIf so, that's the end of the internationally recognized Afghan government.— Frud Bezhan \u0641\u0631\u0648\u062f \u0628\u064a\u0698\u0646 (@Frud Bezhan \u0641\u0631\u0648\u062f \u0628\u064a\u0698\u0646) 1629033678
In recent days, anti-war voices who opposed the initial invasion in 2001 and have railed against the U.S. occupation ever since have pointed out the inevitability of what is now unfolding, the rapid return of Taliban rule despite twenty years—during which trillions of dollars were spent and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost—of U.S. military leaders claiming that some kind of victory was possible.
Bush and Blair plunged into Afghanistan without realistic aims, without an exit plan and with a mission that crept and mutated by the day. As many of us warned at the time, it was hard to see how it would end well. We were, as usual dismissed and reviled.— George Monbiot (@George Monbiot) 1629024144
"The tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan are yet further proof of the utter failure of our country's endless wars and the mindset that enables them," said Stephen Miles, executive director of the U.S.-based group Win Without War, on Friday. "Nearly two decades of military intervention and occupation did not build lasting peace. No number of bombs dropped, no length of time occupied, would have."
What is happening in Afghanistan isn't like the fall of Saigon. It's like the United States lost another war after destabilizing a country that will likely be a failed state for decades, something which has happened multiple times in the "War on Terrorism."— Kevin Gosztola (@Kevin Gosztola) 1629034783
On Sunday, veteran peace activist Medea Benjamin was among those wondering who—any one in the U.S. military or foreign policy establishment—would ever be held accountable for the deceit or failures in Afghanistan.
"Who is going to be fired for 20 years of horrific failure in Afghanistan?" Benjamin asked on social media. "Who would you suggest?"
In a separate Sunday morning tweet, Benjamin said: "As the blame game for the Afghan crisis heats up, I want to add all who supported this disastrous invasion from the beginning, including those who bashed us at anti-war protests. We were right, you were wrong. We should have never invaded Afghanistan. Period."
Call me a cynic, but I don't think some of the generals who attack Biden's decision do so because their hearts ache for the Afghan people or for the honor of the American military.\n\nRather, their hearts ache because it is now clear to all that they have been lying for 20 years.— Trita Parsi (@Trita Parsi) 1629035266
With a massive U.S. evacuation operation underway, the United Nations warned Saturday of the potential for a massive refugee crisis as many Afghans—not assured they will be safe or unwilling to live under Taliban rule—try to leave the country. On Friday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on neighboring countries "to keep their borders open in light of the intensifying crisis" and warned that "inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives." The UNHCR said it was standing ready to help counties scale up their humanitarian and assistance efforts as needed.
Presidents and generals have told us for years that they were winning the Afghanistan war. It was all delusion. We\u2019re just one more empire the Afghans have defeated\n\nTaliban Sweep in Afghanistan Follows Years of U.S. Miscalculations https://buff.ly/3g3UcDH\u00a0https://buff.ly/3g3UcDH— Massachusetts Peace Action (@Massachusetts Peace Action) 1628977291
In a statement issued by the White House on Saturday, President Joe Biden said the while he had mobilized approximately 5,000 U.S. soldiers to provide security and assist with the evacuation of Afghanistan he was not considering changing course to maintain the occupation of the country which has been ongoing since 2001.
"I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats," Biden said. "I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."
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