The final U.S. troops departed Afghanistan yesterday.
And in the perfect example of leadership, the commanding officer on the ground was the last to leave.
There is so much to discuss and cover regarding what comes next, but I’m emotionally not really in the place to dig into the weeds on it all.
I recently read a long piece in The Washington Post about how the Afghan government just completely collapsed under former President Ashraf Ghani. It’s pretty disgusting to read. The man didn’t organize defenses. He didn’t even ensure checkpoints and defensive positions were set up inside Kabul when it was the last city still standing.
Instead, he was talking about the economy and how the government paid its employees. From the article:
Even as a cascade of provincial capitals fell — starting with Zaranj in the far southwest on Aug. 6, and continuing through two dozen others over the nine days that followed — the president appeared distracted.
“Ghani would want to talk about digitization of the economy,” said the official, referring to the president’s plan for a government salary payment system. “It had nothing to do with the dire threat.”
If you read that entire article, you will walk away absolutely infuriated. Here’s just a snippet of it:
Ghani’s lack of focus on the threat that the Taliban posed mystified U.S. officials, in particular, Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, and Ambassador Ross Wilson.
In a July meeting with Ghani in Kabul, the two men told the Afghan president that his team needed a “realistic, implementable and widely supported plan to defend the country” and must drop the idea of defending all 34 provincial capitals, said an official familiar with the meeting.
“They had to focus on what they could actually defend,” said the official. “All provinces are important, but some were integral to the defense of Kabul.”
Ghani appeared to agree, but there would be no follow-through, the official said.
The entire article is more than worth the read, but you find yourself almost cussing at Ghani by the end of it. Of course, by that point, he had already fled without telling anyone, even those under him.
It’s simply STILL shocking to read that a capital of more than 4 million people collapsed without a shot fired. Even the Taliban were surprised by how events unfolded in Kabul. Police simply abandoned their checkpoints because the government essentially abandoned them.
Okay, breathe Stan. Try to let that go.
Moving on, reluctantly…
Now, the Taliban controls the country, but they have a host of problems to deal with. Including, trying to defeat ISIS-K.
Interestingly, the Taliban released more than 2,000 ISIS-K fighters from prison, without fully thinking through what they had done. Initially, they wanted the men to help them fight the Afghan government. But now, those same men are loose and often dressed the same as the Taliban.
Two final quick things.
First, the Taliban has shown some signs of moderation. They requested that a bookstore owner re-open his bookstore. They haven’t banned television yet. And they’ve clearly worked with the Americans on several things.
I wouldn’t be surprised if America and the Taliban don’t team up against ISIS-K, using American drones and Taliban foot soldiers. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Taliban doesn’t help continue to evacuate Americans and other Aghan interpreters that we want to evacuate.
While some pro-U.S. Afghans have been hunted down and killed (some of these were killed by ISIS-K), it seems the Taliban itself is desperate for the billions in foreign aid that the U.S. is holding over its head.
This dance between the United States, the Taliban, and ISIS-K will be interesting to watch in the coming days and weeks.
I’m sure I’ll have more on that as it emerges.
The final thing I wanted to do in this post was honor those who gave their lives last week.
All right, gang. That’s it for this post.
I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts below, if you feel like sharing them. This has definitely all been heavy the past couple of weeks.
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Stan R. Mitchell
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