Following Biden’s July announcement that United States’ (US) troops would leave Afghanistan by August 31, the Taliban seized control of cities across Afghanistan, paving the way for their capture of the capital city, Kabul. Kabul had been home to the US embassy and was one of the last outposts of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Following its capture, the Taliban claimed victory and officially declared the 20-year war over.
Ashraf Ghani, the 72-year-old president of Afghanistan, fled the presidential palace in Kabul shortly before Taliban forces arrived and is now said to be in Uzbekistan.
While it was always likely the Taliban would have a resurgence following US withdrawal, the speed and precision with which it took place surprised many. A recent US intelligence assessment had wrongly predicted that it would take at least 90 days for Kabul to fall following the departure of American troops.
Looking back only days ago, the Taliban’s capture of Kandahar, the second largest city in Afghanistan, was considered a shocking defeat for Afghan forces. On the same day, the Taliban had also taken Herat, the third largest city, and Lashkar Gah in the South, cementing their control over two-thirds of the country.
The quick surrender of Herat, Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and many more have the international community and American officials scratching their heads. In theory, the ANSF should have vastly overpowered the Taliban given the US had spent over $88 billion to build security forces, providing military training and high-tech equipment.
Instead, a lack of leadership, intense corruption and two decades worth of casualties are some of the reasons being attributed to the ANSF’s failures. It didn’t help that as cities fell, a sense of inevitability spread across Afghanistan, disheartening soldiers and putting them under increased pressure to defect in order to secure their own safety and that of their families. For example, the governor of Ghazni, Daoud Laghmani, was recently arrested for abandoning his post and allowing the Taliban to take the city with little to no resistance.
The US and other countries, including Australia, are now scrambling to conduct mass evacuations as the fall of Kabul is being likened to the fall of Saigon. A viral picture showing more than 600 people crammed into a C-17 US aircraft illustrates the chaotic scenes as thousands rush to evacuate the airport of Kabul. India has been the latest embassy to leave Kabul, with only China, Pakistan, and Russia continuing to have an official presence in the capital.