Rajat Sharma

Americans gone from Afghanistan: Worst retreat ever !

AKBAmerica’s longest war in history came to an unceremonious end on Monday midnight after the last five C -17 military cargo jets left Kabul airport. This was followed by nightlong heavy celebratory firing by Taliban fighters across Kabul, which went on till early morning. After spending more than $2 trillion on a 20-year-long war that took more than 1,70,000 lives, including 2,461 American troops, the US ultimately failed to defeat the Taliban and left behind billions of dollars worth tanks, armoured vehicles, aircraft, choppers, rifles and other weapons.

US military commanders claimed that they have deactivated most of the armoured vehicles, Chinook helicopters and other aircraft left behind at Kabul airport making them unusable, by destroying their systems, but that claim appears to be debatable. Taliban fighters immediately took control of the entire Kabul airport and their spokesman proclaimed “full independence”, 20 years after the US attacked Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 in New York will take place eleven days from now.

It was a hasty evacuation marked by bloodbath caused by suicide bomb attacks, Drone strike and rocket attacks in Kabul for the last two weeks. The US troops left behind lakhs of Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule. These included many former Afghan army officials holding valid visas to enter the US. Their future is now in jeopardy. Hundreds of US citizens have also been left behind and their future is uncertain. US President Joe Biden said, the Taliban has made commitments to give safe passage to Americans, Afghan partners and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. “The world will hold them to their commitments”, Biden said.

Former US President Donald Trump said, “Never in history has withdrawal from war been handled so badly or incompetently as the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan”. He said, the US “must demand return of all equipment from Afghanistan, and that includes every penny of the 85 billion dollars in cost”. It was Trump’s administration that had signed the peace deal with Taliban in Doha for the peaceful withdrawn of US troops from Afghanistan. While executing that deal, the Biden administration carried out improperly planned, hasty evacuation which led to several lakhs of Afghans and several thousand American and other nationals undergoing ordeal for the last two weeks. Many are still stuck inside Afghanistan staring at a brutal and arbitrary Taliban rule.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, we showed visuals of how thousands of Afghan women, carrying small kids, negotiating tough hilly terrain in order to cross the Afghanistan-Iran border. These men, women and kids have left their homes and properties, and gathered whatever valuables they could, to march towards the Iran border.

Iran has already closed all its border check posts with Afghanistan after the return to power of Taliban. The common Afghans are going through hilly terrain from Herat and Nimroz provinces in their bid to enter Iran. Many of these Afghan families had left their homes two weeks ago, when Taliban captured Kabul, and walked more than 500 km to reach the Iran border. More than half of the nearly 4 crore Afghan population are unwilling to stay under Taliban regime.

At the main crossing points at Torkham, Spin Boldak and Angur Ada on Afghan-Pakistan border, hundreds of Pakistan Ranger soldiers are pointing rifles at thousands of Afghans seeking to cross over to Pakistan. Afghanistan has a 2,000 km long border called Durand Line with Pakistan, and last month when fighting broke out with Afghan army, the Taliban seized most of the areas on AfPak border to start its march towards capital Kabul. At Chaman border crossing, during pre-August 15 period, nearly 4,000 Afghans used to cross into Pakistan daily, but this number has now shot up to 18,000 daily.

Reports and images have come from Afghanistan’s borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, where thousands of Afghans have started assembling to leave their country. There are 12 border check posts, and at most of these posts, entry of Afghans has been banned. Some countries have erected huge walls with barbed wire fencing to stop immigration. Countries like Iran and Turkey have refused to take any more Afghans.

I feel sad watching such visuals. I wonder what are the compulsions that forced these Afghan families to leave their home and hearth. The common Afghans do not trust Taliban’s promises of adopting a moderate line. They know they would be subjected to inhuman cruelties in the months to come when Taliban will begin implementing the laws of Shariat. There was this image of Taliban fighters inside a helicopter carrying a man tied to a chain from the chopper. Such images have sent shudders in the spine of common Afghans.

The bloodbath that took place near Kabul airport during the suicide attacks by Islamic State (Khorasan group), the American Drone attack on “IS target” in Kabul on Sunday, and the firing of five multiple rockets on Monday by IS terrorists on towards US military positions inside the airport, has caused scare among common Afghans. People feel that in the coming months there could be more fighting between Taliban and IS, Taliban and Northern Alliance, followed by brutal killings by hardcore Taliban fighters.

In ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ we showed visuals of rifle-toting Taliban fighters standing behind an Afghan news anchor, shivering with fear, inside a television studio. These Taliban fighters were keenly listening to the news reports that were being read by the anchor. These images portend the reign of Taliban terror, that will be seen in the days and weeks to come.

Women employees in media, banks and government offices have already been ordered not to report for duty. There was also report of Taliban brutally killing a renowned Afghan folk singer Fawad Andrabi near his home, nearly 100 km from Kabul. Taliban fighters went to his home, sipped tea, then dragged him out, and shot him in the head in front of frightened onlookers.

Those who harbour the false illusion that all would be well under Taliban rule after the Americans leave, should think over again after watching these images and videos. Already, in cities, there is acute shortage of food and commodities, and ATMs and banks have run out of cash. Prices of bread, food items and mineral water have gone through the roof due to dwindling supplies. Most of the banks are closed and customers are unable to withdraw their own savings. The Afghan central bank has its funds with IMF and World Bank frozen.

Old Al Qaeda terrorists have started emerging into the limelight again. Aminul Haque, who was security in-charge of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, surfaced in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, home to more than 3,000 IS terrorists. Aminul Haque was the chief of Al Qaeda security, when the US was bombing Osama’s hideouts inside Tora Bora caves in 2001.

With the US leaving Afghanistan unceremoniously, the Taliban has hit a huge jackpot of US-made aircraft, helicopters, tanks, armoured vehicles, Humvees, rifles and other weapons, worth billions of dollars. The Taliban leaders never dreamed they would get hold of such a huge cache of weapons, that can make any small country a military power. Taliban leaders never imagined that a three lakh strong Afghan army, trained by US troops, would meekly surrender.

The Afghans never dreamt that the US would leave them high and dry after using them for 20 years. The Taliban never imagined that an elected President would flee the country and hand over the capital Kabul to them, without a fight. The Taliban leaders were never prepared for such a quick, speedy victory.

This is the reason why the Taliban leadership is still unable to form a coherent government and a well-defined governance structure. Taliban never imagined that the US army would leave hurriedly leaving billions of dollars worth weapons in their hands. The same US army, which fought and killed the Taliban fighters for two decades, has handed over to them a huge armoury of military weapons and systems. Thousands of Afghans, who sided with the US in establishing democracy and governance in Afghanistan for two decades, have been left high and dry by their American patrons.

They are now living a world of terror with death staring at them. On one hand, the Taliban have thousands of armoured vehicles, Humvees, lakhs of assault rifles, aircraft and helicopters, and on the other hand, the Afghans who helped the US, are locked inside their homes waiting for the inevitable. The brave Afghan women, who had discarded their ‘burqa’, and had pursued higher education to live a modern life, are now staring at hell.

The US, which encouraged these brave Afghan women, to leave a puritanical, fundamentalist way of life, and made them yearn for liberty and higher education, has left them high and dry. The world has never seen such a travesty of trust that the common Afghan had for the Americans. None can predict what is going to happen in Afghanistan in the coming weeks and months. Afghans are staring at a future that will witness brutal torture and killings and this will surely bring an end to liberties enjoyed for two decades by Afghan families.

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