The Taliban has “prevailed” in its battle with the West in Afghanistan, said General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army as it emerged all UK and U.S. troops will be withdrawn on Sunday.
Writing in The Telegraph, General Lord Dannatt said: “Ultimately, Taliban force of arms has prevailed, and the people of that country have been denied the chance to choose a better way of life.” Lord Dannatt said. “Tragically, a descent into the chaos of civil war seems highly likely.”
During the 20-year conflict, 454 British military personnel were killed while serving in Afghanistan. Taliban forces are now making sweeping gains across rural areas, declaring victory over NATO and its allies.
Lord Dannatt has called for a Chilcot-like “audit” of the campaign to take place as the Union flag has been lowered in Kabul, ending 20 years of British presence in Afghanistan.
Lord Dannatt added: “The Afghan National Army has seemingly lost the will to fight and many soldiers are abandoning their posts, no longer supported by substantial international air power.”
He warned that “tragically, a descent into the chaos of civil war seems highly likely”.
Groups form militia and rearm
A report by The Telegraph said:
The Taliban have yet to capture any significant town or city, but the toppling of rural district centers has spread alarm in Kabul and Washington that the momentum may build into a cascade of larger victories.
A former Taliban minister said the withdrawal showed that: “We are the winner”.
Afghan officials have claimed the loss of some districts represents a strategic withdrawal to protect urban centers, while others have been recaptured. Some groups that fear the government cannot protect them have begun to rearm and form militia.
Taliban envoys have attempted to reassure the Afghan government and international community that they will not reimpose their strict emirate of the 1990s, which was notorious for repressing women and executing criminals.
However, one commander said that was exactly what he was fighting for. The man, called Asad Sadaqat, said: “Taliban will establish an Islamic regime and there won’t be much difference with the old regime. Stoning, the adultery death penalty and chopping the hands off thieves are God’s rules. The Taliban can’t show flexibility and compromises on those rules.”
Yet the prospect of renewed civil war appeared to haunt at least one older insurgent commander, who said anarchy could not be deemed victory. The fighter, called Mullah Hamidullah, said he had spent 25 of his 55 years with the Taliban.
“We will certainly enter another civil war with our own fellow Muslims, so instead of being arrogant winners, the Taliban must think for a peaceful Afghanistan.”
He predicted world attention would quickly move on.
“Afghans killing Afghans won’t be noticed by anyone,” he said.
‘I want to talk about happy things’: Biden cuts off questions on Afghanistan
The U.S. President Joe Biden cut off reporters on Friday after being questioned about the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, saying he would rather talk about “happy things”.
The U.S. president had sought to tout a strong employment report released on Friday, but instead faced questions on fears that the situation in Afghanistan could unravel into civil war amid the exit of American troops.
Biden, who met with Afghan leaders last week, said he did not want to take “negative” questions and would rather focus on the Fourth of July weekend.
“I want to talk about happy things, man” he said after being asked repeatedly about Afghanistan during a press conference to celebrate last month’s job growth.
Asked a fourth time about Afghanistan, Biden said: “I’m not gonna answer any more questions on Afghanistan… it’s Fourth of July [weekend].”
The president said he would answer questions on less “happy” affairs next week.
“You guys are asking me questions that I’ll answer next week. But this is a holiday weekend” he said. “I’m going to celebrate it. There are great things happening.”
“We’re bringing out our troops home, we have all across America people are going to ballgames and doing good things,” he said.
The president said he would “answer all of your negative questions, not negative – your legitimate questions” next week after the Fourth of July weekend.
Biden said on Friday that he believes Afghanistan will be able to “sustain a government” in the event of a heightened Taliban assault after US troops exit.
Asked about the US Air Force supporting Afghanistan, he said “we can be value-added but the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves with the air force they have.”
U.S. to keep airstrike option in Afghanistan
An AP report said:
The U.S. military will remain involved in the Afghanistan war into September, keeping the option of launching airstrikes against the Taliban to defend Afghan forces, U.S. officials said Thursday.
A range of complicating factors means that will not end U.S.’s involvement in the 20-year war.
Officials said when U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, flies out of Afganistan, his combat role, including authority to carry out strikes on the Taliban and to conduct counterterror operations against al-Qaida or other groups, will be taken over by Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, who is based in Florida. Officials said there have been several U.S. airstrikes in support of the Afghans in recent weeks, using warplanes based outside of Afghanistan, and those strikes will continue.
The new U.S. commander inside Afghanistan will be Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, who will head the security mission at the U.S. Embassy. He is already in Kabul, working with Miller on a transition, said the officials on condition of anonymity.
Vasely will have 650 U.S. troops in the country, based largely at the embassy to secure the diplomatic mission, a force that will remain indefinitely. In addition, until September, McKenzie will have the authority to keep up to 300 more troops in Afghanistan to help with security, including at the airport, said the officials.
The Pentagon and other U.S. leaders — from the White House to Capitol Hill — have expressed alarm about a recent surge in violence in Afghanistan, amid fears that it will lead to a widespread civil war and the collapse of the Afghan government and its military.
During his final press conference in Kabul earlier this week, Miller painted a grim picture of the security situation. He noted the rapid loss of districts around the country to the Taliban and warned that “a civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if this continues on the trajectory it’s on right now, that should be of concern to the world.”
U.S. officials have repeatedly stressed that security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a critical requirement for keeping any U.S. diplomatic staff in Afghanistan. While Turkey has agreed to continue that mission, agreements with the Afghans and the U.S. have not been finalized.
As part of the agreement with Turkey, the U.S. would keep a C-RAM — or Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system — at the airport, as well as troops to operate it. The U.S. also plans to leave aircrew for helicopter support at the airport.
The U.S. maintains its authority to strike any militants that pose a threat to the American homeland.
Other media reports said:
There are significant numbers of private security contractors working for the US in Afghanistan. This included as of the last quarter of 2020 more than 7,800 US citizens, according to US Congress research.
The human cost of the war
Since the war against the Taliban began in 2001, U.S. forces have suffered more than 2,300 deaths and around 20,660 soldiers injured in action.
The U.S. casualty figures are dwarfed by the loss of life among Afghan security forces and civilians.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said in 2019 that more than 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed since he became president five years earlier.
Brown University’s research in 2019 estimated the loss of life amongst the national military and police in Afghanistan to be more than 64,100 since October 2001, when the war began.
And according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), nearly 111,000 civilians have been killed or injured since it began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009.