Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban, and U.S. troops now in the country are working to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S., allied and Afghan partners from the country.
News reports show many Taliban in the streets, some toting American weapons. Other videos show Taliban patrolling the streets in Humvees.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul is closed and President Ashraf Ghani has fled Afghanistan.
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, met with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar.
“I’m not going to detail the specifics of that discussion … but I can tell you that the general was very clear in his discussions with Taliban leaders that any attack on our people, or operations at the airport would be met, swiftly, with a very forceful response,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today at the Pentagon.
U.S. operations in Kabul are centered at the airport.
“We are working to reestablish security at Hamid Karzai International Airport following breaches overnight that emanated from the civilian side of the airfield,” Kirby said. “At this time, out of an abundance of caution, there are no flights coming or going, military or civilian.”
This is due to the large crowds on the southern side of the airfield. U.S. troops are working with Turkish soldiers and troops from other partner nations to clear the tarmac of the crowds so air operations can resume, Kirby said.
There have been at least two incidents, Kirby said, and two armed Afghans were killed by U.S. troops.
American forces continue to flow into Kabul as part of this non-combatant evacuation operation.
“Currently, there are approximately 2,500 U.S. troops at the airport,” the press secretary said. “Over the next 24 hours we expect additional forces to arrive from both the 82nd Airborne Division and a battalion from a Marine Expeditionary Unit. That should bring our force level to over 3,000.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered another battalion of the 82nd Airborne to deploy directly to Kabul. The battalion was scheduled to be part of the quick reaction force in Kuwait.
Kirby repeated a notice from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that “all U.S. citizens, special immigrant visa applicants, and others should shelter in place until security can be re-established at the airfield and an orderly process can be established to marshal them onto the field and to get them out of the country.”
U.S. forces have taken over air traffic control in Kabul.
Once order is restored at the airfield, those seeking refuge will leave via commercial, charter or military aircraft. Almost 2,000 Afghans have relocated to the United States already under the program.
Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. Those who have not completed the screening process, will transfer to a third country.
More than 800,000 American service members have served in Afghanistan since October 2001.
A total of 2,352 American service members died in Afghanistan, and more than 20,000 were wounded.
The Taliban struck a deal with former President Donald Trump before he was defeated by President Joe Biden, but the GOP is desperately seeking to shift blame for the current situation to the new administration.
Biden’s hands were tied by Trump’s February 2020 agreement with the Taliban, which committed the United States to withdrawing in 2021.
A Republican National Committee (RNC) post touting the Trump administration’s surrender to the Taliban is offline, along with all posts before 2021, during what the RNC said is routine website maintenance.
Internet archive site Wayback Machine shows a Sept. 15, 2020, post praising former President Trump’s “historic peace agreement with the Taliban.” The post is no longer on the RNC site, nor are any posts from that section of the website before Jan. 1, 2021.
In a tweet, RNC’s deputy chief of staff Mike Reed disputed a report calling the erasures a whitewash, saying the GOP committee launched a new website and some posts haven’t been transferred yet.
Republican hawks are once again circling after years of dormancy under the Trump presidency.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said the Biden administration was warned that things would be this bad.
Cotton said the withdrawal has “humiliated America.” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., charged that Biden had “turned his back on our allies.”
Kirby was asked a number of times if the collapse of the Afghan government forces was a surprise after 20 years of U.S. and coalition training.
“You can resource. You can train. You can support. You can advise. And you can assist,” he said. “But you cannot buy ‘will.’ You cannot purchase leadership. And leadership was missing.”
The collapse of the US-backed Afghan government is the product of two decades of miscalculations about transforming Afghanistan and overly optimistic assessments of progress that have plagued the war from its start, during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush Jr.
Bush failed to capture terrorist Usama bin Laden and quickly lost focus as he diverted military resources to his unwarranted invasion of Iraq, which created the opportunity for ISIS to flourish while exporting terrorism to the United States through social media.