The night passed and dawn arrived. As usual, I left home at 8 o’clock in the morning to go to the office. I got to my office, and everyone there was astounded by the Taliban’s progress.
It was clear from the faces of my colleagues that something was wrong. Everyone felt that something big was going to happen. It was like the approaching storm before the flood. That morning we held a news-conference as usual. Our head of department told us that in the future we should come to work with traditional clothes (the same clothes that were common under the Taliban`s watch).
There were reports of the fall of Kabul’s neighbouring provinces being heard with little or no conflict. The Taliban were advancing quickly towards Kabul. At around 12 noon on the same day, news showed that the Taliban reached the gates of Kabul. And after 20 years, the Taliban returned to Kabul. Everyone was worried about what was happening before our eyes. Everyone was afraid of a prolonged war with the accompanying destruction. There was a scramble by government officials trying urgently to get back to their homes.
The people of Kabul were in a hurry – everyone was panicking and trying to get to safety. The commotion continued until the end of the day but no one really knew what was happening. The only thing that was clear was that the Taliban really had reached the capital of Afghanistan. Efforts to temper the panic and potential for bloodshed were launched by Afghan allies and some government officials. At 6 pm it was announced through various media and sources that the president had escaped. These were the moments when Afghanistan was suddenly thrust in a power vacuum.
The Taliban reached the centre of the capital overnight. People were still asking themselves one question, however. How can it happen that Afghanistan, with all its facilities and comprehensive global support, is falling to the Taliban? After twenty years of immense presence and support of the United States and with a large well-equipped army, including tanks and aircraft, Afghanistan fell in less than a month. The United States had spent billions of dollars on equipping and training Afghan forces since 2001.
It was believed that the government had the capability to prepare one hundred and eighty thousand soldiers for military operations. Given this, how did the country fall so quickly and without even a whimper? The answer to this question, unfortunately, has various aspects.
1. The government was surprised by and overly hopeful for the Doha peace talks.
The government did not want to disrupt the Doha process by launching large-scale military operations against the Taliban, and relied more on a defensive strategy. However, the Taliban used the opposite approach – a stronger side will get more points in negotiations – so they tried hard to take control of several provinces in order to appear to have more strength in the negotiations.
2. Unprofessional appointments, especially in military positions in the name of rejuvenating government institutions.
The government made appointments and appointed people to military positions who had no experience of war and did not know the geography or politics of Afghanistan. This only served to aid the deterioration of the situation, and caused the security forces to lose their morale easily while the Taliban’s morale grew stronger day by day.
Corruption was another key factor in the fall of Afghanistan. Over the 20 years of the Comprehensive Global Conference, billions of dollars were donated to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, much of it was not distributed in the right places. The former finance minister has now revealed that most of these forces were imaginary and high-ranking government officials pocketed these imaginary soldiers’ salaries. In twenty years there were of course achievements in terms of the development of the media, women’s rights and education, but these could have been even greater. Corruption has undoubtedly harmed the people of both Afghanistan and the United States.
And now, spontaneously with the withdrawal of the Americans, people are becoming disappointed with all their achievements in the fields of education, human rights and freedom of speech. Worse still, all people are afraid that the Taliban will accuse and seek retribution against people that co-operated with the former government and foreign forces. Life in Afghanistan remains fuelled by and filled with fear.
FAST FACTS: People killed during the Taliban seizure of Afghanistan
American soldiers – 2,448
NATO soldiers – 1,144
Afghan soldiers – 66,000
Afghan civilians – 47,245
People killed by Taliban and other groups – 51,191
Assistants – 444
News Reporters – 72
by Rustam Betanai