The Taliban'sTaliban's Advancement Continues in Afghanistan, and the United States Sends 3,000 Marines to Kabul to Evacuate the Embassy.
Islamic extremist forces are already in Ghazni, 150 kilometers from the capital. The same situation occurred in that same place 20 years ago when the war began.
The advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan is devastating. Government forces crumble like columns of sand in water. After 20 years and a trillion dollars of military spending, the withdrawal of US troops left a huge power vacuum and widespread discouragement in the pro-Western government. Until last week, the forecasts of military analysts said that if the chaotic situation continues, the Taliban could take power in Kabul in nine months. Now, they believe that this situation can occur in days. In Washington, they fear a desperate exit like Hanoi in 1975 when US troops left Vietnam. For that reason, Some 3,000 marines are arriving in Kabul in the next few hours to evacuate all the Americans and diplomats from European countries. The Administration of President Joe Biden wants to avoid by all means the image of the last helicopter leaving the embassy with people hanging.
The Taliban have already seized power in Ghazni, the capital of the same name, just 150 kilometers from Kabul. The same situation that occurred there when everything began in December 2001, but in the opposite direction. At that time, the fighters of the pro-Western Northern Alliance were advancing towards Kandahar, the second Afghan city, the spiritual capital of the Taliban. At the same time, they fled towards the mountains of the Hindu Kush range. From there, they came down every summer to confront the Americans and other NATO forces. Two decades later, and after the deaths of 150,000 civilians, 3,600 American soldiers, 51,000 Taliban, and 2,000 Al Qaeda terrorists, after the passage of four presidents through the White House, everything returns as if it were a board game the first locker.
This was the situation that I experienced as a war correspondent in December 2001, indeed not very far from what is recorded today in that same place:
The first shots are heard as Commander Abdul Ahmad explains the offensive situation against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. We are in what was, at the time, their headquarters: the second floor of a bombed-out school between the villages of Maidan Shar and Pol-i-Sakh, about 100 kilometers south of Kabul, next to the road that goes to Kandahar. Ahmad pretends he hasn'thasn't heard anything. She remains calm and speaks in a soft tone as she slowly passes the beads of her tasby, the ""Muslim rosary."" His men don'tdon't seem to have the same grit. Three of them take the Kalashnikov rifles that they kept next to them on the ground and run away. Ta-ta-tra-tra-ta-ta. Booooommmm. The second shock comes a few minutes later and shakes the walls of the school. It is all too obvious that a fight is taking place a short distance from the scene.
Ahmad, a tall, burly man in his mid-45s with a chest-length black beard, insists on downplaying the matter. But a new exchange of heavy artillery defeats their arguments. A few meters from where we are sitting, there is fighting between his mujahideen forces from the Northern Alliance with groups of Taliban who resist desperately. Just three days earlier, the Taliban left Kabul and headed south, still holding out. Over there, near the border with Pakistan, in 1995, they had begun the advance that in just a few months led them to seize power in Afghanistan and rule under sharia, the brutal 14th-century Islamic law, for five years.
On the other side of the ravine, in a small town of adobe houses with wide defensive walls, the local Taliban, a group of about 100 men under the command of the fierce Taliban commander Gul Mohammed, are sheltered. These fighters resist despite the mullah'smullah's order to surrender. With them are several foreigners from the terrorist network Al Qaeda, says Commander Ahmad. Tatatatata. Boooooommmm. Tatatatata. The combat continues for another half hour until there is a convent silence from one moment to the next. Neither side appears to be ready for an offensive. Finally, Ahmad'sAhmad's men lower their weapons and slowly return to where they were before the shooting began. A scene they seem to be used to. The mujahideen and the Taliban hold their positions and exchange fire two or three times a day, waiting for what happens further south, in Ghazni and Kandahar, to define.
We continue advancing along the route for about 50 kilometers, the limit possible. Beyond that, we are in danger of being shot to death or kidnapped and sold for a few dollars. After a short provincial road, we entered the city of Ghazni, the provincial capital of the same name, where the situation is similar to what we experienced in the morning. In the streets, there is an apparent calm, but gunshots are heard, and vans full of mujahideen can be seen speeding through the few paved roads in the center." " The Taliban still control 50% of the province,"" Commander Mohammed Shajahan assures us as we hurry down a dusty lane behind his headquarters. Shajahan'sShajahan's story is very particular. Until just three months ago, I worked at a service station in Virginia, in the United States. But immediately after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, which launched this war, he returned to his hometown to regain command of his 1,000-mujahideen troops that he had left five years earlier when the Taliban seized power in Kabul. ""At that moment, I wanted to stop fighting. It didn'tdidn't make sense ... Now it does. And that'sthat's why I came back, ""he tells me as he gets into a Toyota pickup that will take him to the front. In the next province to the south, that of Zabol, a region known for its magnificent almond trees, for ten days the forces of the Mujahideen Pashtun commander ( the predominant ethnic group in Afghanistan ) Hamidullah - a man who had become famous for his courage in the fight against the Soviets in the 1980s - and those of the Taliban leader, Mullah Rokketi. In Kandahar, just 100 kilometers further south, the fighting also remains undefined. The Northern Alliance commander, Gul Agha, who negotiated the surrender directly with the one-eyed mullah, Mohammad Omar, Maximum leader of the Taliban, assures that everything is a matter of hours. As part of the agreement, he let Omar and all his commanders flee to the Hindu Kush.
Ghazni is again in the hands of the Taliban today. Also, Herat, the third Afghan city, and 11 more provincial capitals. President Biden is determined to complete the total evacuation of troops on August 31. It will be a severe blow to American esteem if the Taliban take Kabul before the last helicopter leaves. But it is a likely situation.