The stunning victory by the Taliban and the flight of president Ashraf Ghani has stunned the world with leaders and activists expressing concern for the embattled people of Afghanistan, and calling for peace and reconciliation. In less than two weeks, the Taliban took over large swathes of the country and capped this by entering Kabul on Sunday, August 15. Many also pointed to the complete failure of US policy over the past few decades which saw the complete collapse of Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban.
Reacting to the news of the Taliban taking over Kabul, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern “about the situation in Afghanistan.” He urged “the Taliban and others to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure” that “humanitarian needs can be met.” He also reiterated that the UN would work for a peaceful transition and the human rights of all Afghans. The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss Afghanistan on Monday.
On Monday, the news of various countries shutting down embassies or reducing staff in Kabul spread despite the Taliban’s assurance that it seeks a peaceful transition of power. There was chaos at the Kabul international airport, with thousands trying to flee the country. The Kabul airport suspended the operation of commercial flights after hundreds queued up, hoping to board flights leaving the country.
Meanwhile, secretary of state Antony Blinken continued to repeat president Joe Biden’s claim that the the US has achieved all the objectives behind the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. He also denounced comparisons to the hurried withdrawal from Saigon during the Vietnam war in 1975. Many critics had pointed to the similarities. On Sunday, Biden announced an additional 1,000 US troops to Afghanistan to help in the withdrawal, taking the total number of fresh forces deployed in the country to 6,000.
This raises eventual US troop levels in #Afghanistan to 6,000, up from 4,000 on Friday
— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) August 15, 2021
The US had only 2,500 troops in Afghanistan which it had decided to withdraw in April this year.
Various individuals, parties, and human rights groups criticized the Joe Biden administration, both inside and outside the US. Questioning the rationale behind the two-decade-long “military adventure” by the “US imperialism” in Afghanistan, the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the US said in a statement that the “unopposed entrance of Taliban forces into Kabul marks” its conclusion. It pointed out that “the Taliban coming to power in the mid-1990s was the consequence of the CIA war against the socialist government of Afghanistan that had come to power in 1978 during the Saur Revolution.” It also demanded that the ” US politicians and generals responsible for organizing this senseless two decade long war should be brought to justice. They are ultimately responsible for the enormous loss of life that ripped apart Afghan society.”
Several observers saw the developments as a reflection of the complete bankruptcy of western policy on Afghanistan.
Foreigners get to the escape the chaos they created first, locals be damned. https://t.co/6zFU0iwqre
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) August 16, 2021
Some, including whistleblower Edward Snowden, also criticized the Biden administration’s failures to see the obvious and carry out a smoother evacuation from the country to maintain its image.
The @nytimes just reported that the White House, concerned about the appearance of a "domestically damaging" "Saigon moment," ignored "weeks" of warnings that the evacuation operation should be started sooner: https://t.co/oopcM7dRci pic.twitter.com/KH6mtB4jAO
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 16, 2021
Several Afghans took to social media to express their apprehensions about the Taliban rule despite the talks of a peaceful transition. On Sunday, the Taliban’s spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, was quoted by the BBC saying that the Taliban wants a peaceful transition of power in Kabul.
Thousands migrated out of cities earlier captured by the Taliban and moved to Kabul. Their fate is unclear now that the Taliban have captured the city. Several Afghan women also expressed fear about the Taliban rule.
My auntie lost two of her grandchildren in the war today in Uruzgan. War is here at our door step and swallowing us one by one, killing some us and leaving others to die in pain and memory of our lost ones.
— Freshta Karim (@FreshtaKarim) August 14, 2021
On Sunday, citizens of Kabul thronged banks and grocery shops after the news of the eventual takeover spread. Tolo News reported that the city wore a deserted look once the news of Taliban’s control was confirmed.
Meanwhile, several regional and Afghan leaders gave the call for a peaceful transition in the country. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted that just as two-decade-long occupation failed to solve the problems in the country, violence will also not be able to do so. He asserted that Iran was looking for a peaceful transition in Afghanistan and welcomed the formation of a coordination council for the same.
Violence & war—like occupation—never solve problems.
Iran welcomes announcement by @KarzaiH on forming a Coordination Council by Afghan leaders.
We hope that it can lead to dialogue & a peaceful transition in Afghanistan.
Iran stands ready to continue its peacemaking efforts.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 15, 2021
After Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan on Sunday, former president Hamid Karzai announced the formation of a coordination council headed by the country’s chief peace negotiator and former presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah to ensure a “peaceful transfer of power.”