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Afghanistan: Questions arise from Kabul crisis, with troubling answers

CM 22/08/2021


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The UK said that seven people were killed over the weekend at Kabul International Airport, according to a statement Sunday.
“On Saturday, a Sky News correspondent watched as UK paratroopers began pulling people from the mayhem before medics checked vital signs of those left on the floor after a crush, and then covered bodies in white sheets,” according to reports.
The video of the tragedy has been posted online along with other scenes of chaos in an area where US Marines are positioned. 

The scenes of chaos are underpinned by accounts of the mismanagement of the unprecedented attempt to airlift tens of thousands from Kabul while the airport is surrounded by the Taliban.
ABC News aired an extraordinary interview with David Fox, an American in Kabul, who said he was forced to turn back after trying to reach the airport. The story he told, of mixed messaging from the US State Department and the Marines not letting Americans through amid the crush of people, illustrates the predicament at the airport. 
 Marines with the 24th Expeditionary Unit (MEU) guide an evacuee during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, in this photo taken on August 18, 2021 (credit: US NAVY/CENTRAL COMMAND PUBLIC AFFAIRS/SGT. ISAIAH COMPBELL/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) Marines with the 24th Expeditionary Unit (MEU) guide an evacuee during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, in this photo taken on August 18, 2021 (credit: US NAVY/CENTRAL COMMAND PUBLIC AFFAIRS/SGT. ISAIAH COMPBELL/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Already last week people had died amid the crush at the airport and some had clung to an airplane, falling to their deaths.
The predicament is unprecedented, with US and UK forces controlling part of an airport while the Taliban, who they ostensibly used to be fighting against, now appear to coordinate with them outside the perimeter.
So what is really going on? How did the Taliban transition from fighting against NATO forces to coordinating with them? How did the Taliban go from fighting against the US to coordinating to keep people out of the airport and keep the peace so the US can process the thousands trying to get on flights out of the country?  
These questions leave many concerning answers about what is going on.
IT IS KNOWN that the US had a deal with the Taliban brokered in Qatar’s capital Doha. It is also known that NATO member Turkey, which has been hosting extremists, has been keen to work with the Taliban. What is unclear is whether some governments were quietly backing the militant Islamist group as they prepared to take over the country in the last year. How deep was the betrayal of the Afghans? Is it true that the US pulling contractors from Afghanistan led to this collapse?  
 U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on evacuation efforts and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan as Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken stand by in the East Room at the White House in Washington, US, August 20, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO) U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on evacuation efforts and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan as Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken stand by in the East Room at the White House in Washington, US, August 20, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO)
Rory Stewart, a former conservative Minister in the UK who is familiar with Afghanistan, excoriated the US and President Joe Biden. “The United States provided all the air support for the Afghans,” he said. “They didn’t just take their own planes away. They took away 16,000 civilian contractors who were maintaining the Afghan helicopters.” This claim, that the US not only left Bagram airbase in the middle of the night in July, but cut the funding for contractors to repair Afghan vehicles, is one reason given for the collapse.
But one might ask why Afghanistan hadn’t trained any of its own contractors to repair helicopters for over two decades. Interviews with one former US soldier painted a picture of an Afghanistan that was primarily a place for the US to dump American taxpayer money and move that money into the hands of contractors, consultants and other firms, often run by former officials who turned to the private market. It also painted a picture of corrupt Afghan officials who took money for unfinished projects and sent it overseas to the Gulf or other places.  
So that raises questions about whether the Afghan dependency on the contractors was part of a wider plan to keep using the country as a bank account for US tax dollars to be infused for the benefit of others. Inspector General reports in the US are supposed to reveal the degree to which this was the case. Pulling the contractors may not be the elephant in the room Stewart thinks it is – it may be part of a wider question about why so many contractors were there in the first place.
We are told that only 2,500 troops were needed to keep Afghanistan from collapsing and that there were few casualties. But if the landlocked South Asian country was merely outsourced to contractors, then the overall number of personnel should be added together. If you move out troops but bring in contractors, and privatized the war, then what’s the difference? Low casualties say that those who supported the limited presence ostensibly stabilized the country. 
However, the rapidity with which local Afghans went over to the Taliban – and even senior leaders signed deals – raises other questions.
 A Taliban fighter on top of an armoured vehicle loads a gun outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video. (credit: REUTERS TV/via REUTERS) A Taliban fighter on top of an armoured vehicle loads a gun outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video. (credit: REUTERS TV/via REUTERS)
TALIBAN FORCES have been seen with what appear to be US-made M-16 rifles, fancy scopes, night vision, thermals and kits that would go along with what a US unit might be equipped with. Where are all the weapons coming from? Where are the standard-issue uniforms some Taliban wear, the helmets and helmet-mounted night vision and other items coming from?
CNN says “the Taliban’s newfound American arsenal is likely not limited to small arms, as the group captured sizable stockpiles of weapons and vehicles held at strongholds once controlled by US-backed forces, including modern mine-resistant [ambush protected] vehicles (MRAPs) and Humvees.”
But it’s not clear how the Taliban were kitted out in such uniforms that they seem to fit in so well, so quickly. Usually when weapons and uniforms are plundered, the men who take them will only take elements of a uniform, not the whole thing. There appears to be something happening in the background, perhaps foreign support from various governments that liked the Taliban, that helped equip and train them. 
The fact that Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Qatar appear sympathetic to the Taliban or hosted their leaders recently is not a secret. What is less clear is the role the US played, with reports that former US President Donald Trump requested the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund in 2018 from Pakistan, after having been detained since 2010.
According to other reports, key Taliban members who had been held at Guantanamo Bay also played a role. Khairullah Khairkhwa and Gholam Ruhani were both held at Guantanamo and played a role in the return of the Taliban.  
 The fact that Qatar was able to act as a broker, basically easing the return of the Taliban while getting US support and hosting a huge US military base, shows how American partners also work to undermine the US role. Turkey seems to have done the same.
 A member of Taliban forces keeps watch at a checkpost in Kabul, Afghanistan August 17, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER) A member of Taliban forces keeps watch at a checkpost in Kabul, Afghanistan August 17, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
But who was training and equipping and funding the Taliban? The Taliban are said to have made hundreds of millions from various funding streams, including local drugs and other taxes they levied.  
THEN THERE is the question about the US intelligence community and its apparent failure in predicting how the Taliban offensive would unfold. Intelligence reports presented to Biden did not predict the imminent takeover of Afghanistan, The New York Times reported.
“As the Taliban began seizing provinces across Afghanistan in recent weeks, the CIA’s intelligence assessments began to warn in increasingly stark terms about the potential for a rapid, total collapse of the Afghan military and government, current and former US officials told NBC News,” the NBC report noted. 
That means that intelligence assessments became more gloomy but were still wide-ranging about how fast the collapse would happen. This leaves many questions.
Reports have said the US didn’t know how many Americans were in Kabul and the Pentagon didn’t plan for the collapse and the need to evacuate. Nevertheless, the actual evacuation the US has carried out brought out thousands within days. Impressive, but why hadn’t Washington drawn up any lists or emergency plans for this eventuality?
Why are democracies so incapable of planning for basic things? Didn’t their intelligence agencies track the Taliban offensive, their ratlines of equipment and training and how the Taliban was preparing to strike? How come the intelligence community couldn’t present an assessment to the Pentagon or the president that would force them to move faster in July to prepare for the August chaos?
In the end, others question why there is always impunity at the top. As the chaos unfolded in August, there was no attempt to hold anyone accountable. As US officials planned vacations, the perception was, as usual, that no matter the blunder, no one is ever at fault. Everyone did everything correctly.
America’s adversaries learn from this. They know the US appears incapable of doing many basic things. It doesn’t mean the US military shouldn’t be taken seriously. By itself, a US Marine battalion can accomplish great things. The elements of the American machine continue to function, but its brains, as represented by its leadership, appear to be incapable of planning for what happened – and unable to answer some basic questions about why it unfolded the way it did.  

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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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