President Biden: The war in Afghanistan is over, but evacuations and drone strikes will continue
More than 71,000 Afghan and Pakistan civilians have been killed as a result of the war in Afghanistan, according to a Brown University study
The government of Afghanistan has fallen and the Taliban have captured the presidential palace in Kabul. The Deseret News is following the latest reports as the United States’ decadeslong war in Afghanistan appears to come to an end.
President Joe Biden said he refused to send more soldiers to war
Tuesday, Aug. 31
President Joe Biden said in a White House address on Tuesday that the war in Afghanistan is over, but evacuations and drone strikes in the country will continue — even after 20 years of brutal conflict.
The president said he takes sole responsibility for bringing the war to a close, but blamed the Taliban’s rapid recapturing of the country on the Afghan military, who generally laid down their arms after years of training by the U.S. armed forces, and Afghan political leaders, who Bided accused of “corruption and malfeasance.”
- “After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago,” he said.
- Upward of 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians have been killed as a result of the war in Afghanistan, according to the “Costs of War” project from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
The commander in chief said only the United States would have been able to pull off the weekslong airlift that has evacuated thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies. Biden said that mission was successful because of diplomats, military service members and intelligence professionals who “risk their lives, not for professional gain, but to service others.”
- About 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan and most were dual citizens, Biden said, adding that the State Department would lead a deadline-free effort to bring Americans home.
- The Taliban, who for two decades have been one of America’s enemies in Afghanistan, have promised “safe passage” for Americans and Afghan allies to exit the country, Biden added.
- “I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not extending a forever exit,” the president said.
The war is over, Biden said, but America will continue to attack terrorist threats — including those remaining in Afghanistan or those who might seek harbor in the country at a future time. The president said it will use its “over the horizon capabilities” — military aircraft and drones — to conduct airstrikes on terrorists.
- “The terror threat has metastasized across the world, well beyond Afghanistan,” he said.
- “We are not done with you yet,” the commander in chief said to ISIS-K, the terrorists responsible for the attack that killed nearly 200 Afghans civilians and 13 American troops last week.
- Nearly 2,500 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan and about 20,000 have been injured, said U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. on Monday. About 66,000 Afghan military and law enforcement personnel have died fighting in the war, The Associated Press reported.
During Tuesday’s address, Biden said America needs to learn from its mistakes, and that moving forward it has to set “clear, achievable goals” and stay focused on “fundamental national security interests.”
- The president said human rights would be the focus of American foreign policy and that diplomacy and global coalitions are the way forward, not “endless military deployments.”
- “I believe this was the right decision, a wise decision and the best decision for America,” the president said of ending the war. “May God bless you all and may God protect our troops.”
Last American soldier left Afghanistan under the cover of darkness
Tuesday, Aug. 31
The final American soldier to leave Afghanistan boarded a military cargo aircraft under the cover of darkness, according to a photo published by the Department of Defense.
Through the green-eyed lens of a night vision scope, Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue — commander of the U.S. Army’s famed 82nd Airborne infantry division — is seen walking up the back ramp of the C-17 military cargo plane on Monday, a rifle in his hands.
- That walk, a short upward-sloped climb into the massive belly of the aircraft, is one familiar to thousands upon thousands of U.S. service members who deployed during America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
According to an official Army biography, Donahue took command of the 82nd Airborne last summer and has deployed 17 times — to multiple countries, including Afghanistan — during his nearly 30-year career.
- Before leading the airborne division, the general was the commander of the military’s Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.
Two additional photos of the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan: Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commanding general of the @82ndABNDiv, @18airbornecorps, boards an @usairforce C-17 on August 30th, 2021, ending the U.S. mission in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/FH1iBqugxd— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) August 31, 2021
Biden to address the nation Tuesday
At the White House Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden will address the nation — and the world — in a speech about the end of the war in Afghanistan.
- The remarks will be delivered at 12:45 p.m. MDT.
- Biden’s speech can be watched here: President Biden Delivers Remarks on Ending the War in Afghanistan.
American forces have left Afghanistan
Monday, Aug. 30
All American military forces have left Afghanistan, defense officials announced Monday.
U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said in a press conference Monday that he is “100% certain” all U.S. troops have left Afghanistan.
McKenzie said it was “the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans” from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. The last C-17 military cargo aircraft took off from the airport around 3:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern times, he said.
- “Tonight’s withdraw signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” the U.S. Marine Corp. general said.
- McKenzie added that the Department of State would still be making efforts to help additional American citizens and Afghan allies leave the country.
U.S. airstrike allegedly kills 10 Afghan civilians, most were children
Monday, Aug. 30
The day after the U.S. Department of Defense said it conducted a second successful airstrike against Islamic State in Afghanistan, there are reports that the second strike killed nearly a dozen civilians in Kabul, according to The Washington Post.
The American military first reported on Sunday that the airstrike had destroyed an explosives-laden vehicle that had presented an “imminent” threat on the Hamid Karzai International Airport, where the military is in the final hours of conducting its retreat from Afghanistan.
- But hours after the strike, there were reports that it had killed 10 civilians, 8 of which were kids under 18 years old, the Post reported.
- American military officials said they were “aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul” and that they were investigating the deadly attack, according to the Post.
- The New York Times reported that seven children were allegedly killed in the attack, according to statements from the family.
The Islamic State attacked the Kabul airport Monday — not with a suicide bomber this time — but with a barrage of rockets that left no one injured, The Associates Press reported.
U.S. carries out new strike in Kabul against ‘credible threat’, reports say
Sunday, Aug. 29
- The attack came one day after the U.S. State Department warned that there may be a new threat at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport, per The Associated Press.
- “We are confident we successfully hit the target,” Centcom said, per Axios.
- ”Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time.”
U.S. officials warn of potential new threat at Kabul airport
Saturday, Aug. 28
The U.S. State Department warned Saturday that there could be a new threat at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport just days after a major bombing took the lives of at least 170 people.
Per The Associated Press, the State Department has warned all Americans near the airport to leave immediately “because of a specific, credible threat.”
- Americans should avoid traveling near the airport.
- Americans should avoid all airport gates.
Death tolls rise again from Kabul airport bombing
Friday, Aug. 27
At least 170 people have died and 155 were injured from the bombing outside the Kabul airport Thursday, a source close to the matter told The Washington Post.
- This does not include the U.S. service members, and the number will likely rise “likely to rise because many bodies are still irretrievable,” The Washington Post reported.
Death count climbs to 100 from bombings near Kabul airport
Friday, Aug. 27
The Associated Press reports that more than 100 people died Thursday from two suicide bombings near the Kabul airport.
- That number includes 95 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, officials to The Associated Press.
- Thursday was “the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.”
President Joe Biden calls American troops deployed to Afghanistan ‘heroes’
Thursday, Aug. 26
President Joe Biden said Thursday, referencing the Old Testament book of Isaiah, that American troops through the ages have answered the Lord’s call to service.
“The American military has been answering for a long time, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me,’” the commander in chief said in a press conference Thursday afternoon after Defense Department officials announced the death of a dozen service members in Afghanistan.
- “Each one of these women and men of our armed forces were the heirs of that tradition of sacrifice of volunteering to go into harm’s way, to risk everything — not for glory, not for profit — but to defend what we love and the people we love,” he added passionately before leading a moment of silence.
Biden called the American troops on the ground in Kabul, many who’ve flown in to Afghanistan just this past week, “heroes.”
- “Heroes that’ve engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”
- “The lives we lost today were lives given in the service of liberty, the service of security, the service of others and the service of America.”
The president said he has told the Pentagon to develop a plan to strike ISIS-K (the group responsible for the attacks) — specifically any of their “assets, leadership and facilities” — and he would provide more military support if his commanders requested it.
- “To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.
Biden then took question from the White House press corps. He told the White House East Room audience that he “bear(s) responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late.”
Biden is the fourth president to oversee the war in Afghanistan and it appears that he may be the last.
- “We have so much to do. It’s within our capacity to do it. We just have to remain steadfast, steadfast. We will complete our mission.”
- “We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.”
When asked why American troops would spend even another day in Afghanistan after Thursday’s attack, Biden said there were still American citizens and Afghan allies to evacuate. He said there was still opportunities in the next several days, before Aug. 31, to help those people escape.
- “To the extent that we can do that knowing the threat, knowing that we may very well have another attack, the military has concluded that’s what we should do. And think they’re right,” the commander in chief said.
- Biden added that there may be chances to help people escape Afghanistan after the deadline, to include opportunities supported by the Taliban.
Deseret News reporter and editor Herb Scribner contributed to this story.
Scores of Afghans killed in airport attack
Thursday, Aug. 26
At least 60 Afghans were killed during the horrific terrorist attack outside the Kabul airport on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.
For over a week, Afghans have flocked to the airport in hopes of catching a flight, and a new life, outside of the country as U.S. military forces conduct their final airlifts after 20 years of war.
Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai — who the international airport was renamed after in 2014 — called the bombings “an atrocity against humanity and an attack against the people of our beloved and suffering homeland.”
- “I express my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of this heinous attack and pray to Almighty Allah to give patience to the bereaved families and recovery to the wounded,” Karzai added, in the statement shared on Twitter.
…to Almighty Allah to give patience to the bereaved families and recovery to the wounded.— Hamid Karzai (@KarzaiH) August 26, 2021
U.S. troops killed in Kabul complex attack
Thursday, Aug. 26
Several U.S. troops were killed in Thursday’s attack outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, a Pentagon official said.
- “We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport. A number of others are being treated for wounds,” Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement Thursday.
- “We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack,” Kirby added.
The Defense Department has not released a total number of U.S. casualties, as military officials typically notify the families of American war casualties before releasing their names to the public.
- The Associated Press, citing two government officials, reported that 11 American Marines and a U.S. Navy medic had been killed in the attack.
- The commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr confirmed to The New York Times that at least a dozen American service members had been killed.
- “Officials say a number of US military troops were wounded and warned the toll could grow,” according to the AP.
- The U.S. casualties would be the first in Afghanistan since February 2020, the Times reported.
- “Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others,” Austin, a former four-star Army general, said. “We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief.”
In the statement, the defense secretary said the evacuation mission would continue. The deadline for America’s involvement in Afghanistan is Aug. 31.
- “To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan,” Austin concluded.
Explosions outside of Kabul airport result in mounting casualties
Thursday, Aug. 26
There were multiple explosions outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport Thursday, which has resulted in an unknown number of casualties, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
- “We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Twitter. “We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.”
- “Complex attack” is military-speak for what is usually a planned attack that includes multiple methods or attackers. For example, multiple suicide bombers or the detonation of an IED followed by an assault by armed fighters could be considered a complex attack.
Local health officials told the The New York Times that dozens were killed in the attacks and upward of 120 people have been wounded.
- The dual explosions killed at least a dozen people, The Associated Press reported.
We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties. We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021
Taliban disapprove of deadly attack on Kabul airport
Defense Department officials warned earlier this week that terrorist organizations — other than the Taliban, who have manned checkpoints outside the airfield — may target the evacuation efforts at the airport.
In a statement Thursday, the Taliban said they condemn the attacks in Kabul.
- “The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport,” said Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen on Twitter, according to a translation of the tweet.
غبرګون:— Suhail Shaheen. محمد سهیل شاهین (@suhailshaheen1) August 26, 2021
اسلامي امارت د کابل په هوايي ډګر کې په ملکي خلکو چاودنه په کلکه غندي، یاده چاودنه په هغه سیمه کې ترسره شوې چې د امنيت مسئولیت يې د امريکايي ځواکونو په لاس کې دی.
اسلامي امارت د خپلو خلکو امنيت او ساتنې ته کلک متوجه دی، د شر غوښتونکو کړيو مخه به په کلکه سره ونيول شي.
This is breaking news and will be updated as the Deseret News learns more about the blast.
Around 1,500 American citizens are still in Afghanistan
Wednesday, Aug. 25
The U.S. Department of State estimates that 1,500 American citizens are still in Afghanistan, but it may be that not all of them want to repatriate.
At a press conference Wednesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said around 6,000 Americans initially requested to leave Afghanistan and roughly 4,500 have been evacuated, The Associated Press reported.
- “Some are understandably very scared,” said Blinken.
- Around 500 of the remaining Americans have received instructions on how to get to the Hamid Karzai International Airport for an evacuation flight, reported the AP.
According to The New York Times, the secretary of state said some of remaining 1,000 Americans may choose to stay in Afghanistan. The Times reported that the Biden White House has “grappled to pin down” how many Americans feel that way.
- Part of that 1,000 estimate may include Americans that have already left Afghanistan and some who were not actually American citizens at all, Blinken said, according to the AP.
As of early early Wednesday morning, around 82,300 people had been flown out of the country since the Taliban’s toppling of the Afghan government, according to the Times.
Islamic State threatens U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan
Wednesday, Aug. 25
Two decades after the United States began its war on terrorism in Afghanistan, the yet-defeated terrorists could now jeopardize the U.S. retreat from Kabul.
Intelligence assessments of the dangers in the capital city outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport now include fighters from the Islamic State, known regionally as ISIS-K, Politico reported.
- “The U.S. has been transparent that there is an active and continuing threat from ISIS. That said, the U.S. military can continue our mission at HKIA as long as we are ordered to be there, and we are not going to shut down the mission in response to a threat from ISIS,” U.S. Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban said, Politico reported.
- The spokesperson added that the U.S. military would “take all measures necessary to defend our forces and the evacuees.”
President Joe Biden, the fourth president to oversee the war in Afghanistan, insists the U.S. military is on track to finish the mass evacuations by the Aug. 31 deadline, according to The New York Times.
- The commander in chief acknowledged that armed forces were ready to “adjust that timetable” should the need to do so arise and that the situation at the airport was becoming “tenuous,” the Times reported.
- The Taliban have insisted this week that the Aug. 31 deadline is nonnegotiable and that they no longer wanted Afghans to flee the country.
Taliban tell women to stay home, for now
The Taliban have warned Afghan women to stay in their homes while the reemerging Taliban government instructs its fighters on how to treat women, the BBC reported.
- At a Tuesday press conference, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid insisted the order was “a very temporary procedure,” according to the BBC.
- “Our security forces are not trained (in) how to deal with women — how to speak to women (for) some of them,” Mujahid said at the press conference. “Until we have full security in place ... we ask women to stay home.”
When the Taliban last ruled over Afghanistan before 9/11, the rights of Afghan women were nonexistent.
CIA director met with Taliban leadership
Tuesday, Aug. 24
On Monday, Burns met with the Taliban’s Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, representing “the highest-level in-person talks between a Biden administration official and the new de facto leadership of Afghanistan,” according to the Times.
- Baradar — the political deputy and co-founder of the Taliban — was the Taliban’s lead negotiator in talks with former President Donald Trump’s administration, the BBC reported.
- “The CIA partnered with Pakistani forces to arrest Baradar in 2010, and he spent eight years in a Pakistani prison before the Trump administration persuaded Pakistan to release him in 2018 ahead of peace talks,” according to The Associated Press.
Taliban says it will not extend Aug. 31 evacuation deadlines
A Taliban official reiterated Tuesday that it would not allow the United States and its allies to extend an Aug. 31 deadline for evacuating people out of Kabul, according to The Washington Post.
“It was the American plan,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday at a press conference in Kabul, the Post reported. “They have the opportunity. They have all the resources. They can take all the people that belong to them.”
- Mujahid told journalists that the Taliban was preventing Afghans from getting to the Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee, because “it was dangerous and their (the Afghan people’s) skills were needed to rebuild the country,” reported the Post.
- “We are asking the American please change your policy and don’t encourage Afghans to leave,” Mujahid added.
Baby reunited with family after being handed to Marines over Kabul airport wall
Monday, Aug. 23
A baby handed over a concertina wire-top wall to U.S. Marines from outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport last week has been reunited with family, The New York Times reported.
A video of Marines being given the small child went viral last week as thousands of desperate Afghans fled to the gates of the airfield in an attempt to flee from the Taliban.
- “The baby seen in the video was taken to a medical treatment facility on site and cared for by medical professionals,” said Marines spokesman Maj. James Stenger to the Times in an email. “I can confirm the baby was reunited with their father and is safe at the airport.”
The images are heart-wrenching: in the chaos outside Kabul’s international airport, footage of babies and children being lifted above surging crowds into the arms of U.S. soldiers on blast walls. It was not clear if their parents had made it to safety. https://t.co/eoCINkdqYd pic.twitter.com/GyHJuQZI2Q— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 20, 2021
Taliban threaten ‘consequences’ if U.S., U.K. miss Aug. 31 deadline
A Taliban spokesman told U.K.-based Sky News that the United States and its allies are not to stay in Afghanistan past an Aug. 31 deadline — or there will be “consequences.”
- “It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that,” said the Taliban’s Suhail Shaheen to Sky News.
- “If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” the spokesman added. “It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.”
Biden vows to bring all Americans homes from Afghanistan
Friday, Aug. 20
At a White House press conference on Friday, President Joe Biden said he wouldn’t leave any Americans or allies behind in Afghanistan.
- “Let me be clear, any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” the president told reporters, according to The New York Times.
- Biden told reporters that 18,000 people had been evacuated out of the Afghanistan since July, the Times reported
The president also pledged to evacuate all Afghan allies who had supported America’s decadeslong war there, reported The Associated Press.
- Last month, American foreign diplomats stationed in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had urged the Biden administration to escalate the pace of evacuation from Afghanistan, according to the AP.
- The Biden administration has been criticized for not pulling out more Americans and allies sooner and the president initially blamed Afghan leaders on the reason for not hosting a mass exodus earlier.
Taliban is hunting American allies
Taliban fighters have escalated their search of security personnel and Afghans who supported coalition forces, The Washington Post reported.
- “The militants are going house to house, setting up checkpoints and threatening to arrest or kill relatives of the ‘collaborators’ in major cities,” according to a United Nations confidential assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, reported the Post.
State Department in talks with Taliban to allow passage to Kabul airport
Wednesday, Aug. 18
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the State Department was talking with the Taliban about ensuring that “everybody trying to get to the airport” has a safe road to evacuation The Washington Post reported.
News agencies reported Wednesday that the Taliban had established checkpoints outside the Kabul airport and were intimidating crowds of people away from evacuating.
- “We have heard all the stories … about checkpoints, harassments, difficulties,” the deputy secretary of state said at a press conference Wednesday, according to the Post. We are “trying to work through those issues as best we can,” Sherman said.
The Biden administration said earlier this week it wanted to evacuate thousands of American and allies from Afghanistan by the end of August.
- Sherman said the evacuations would include Afghans that had aided the U.S. efforts in the country and others “who are otherwise at risk because of who they are, what they do or what they believe,” reported the Post.
Taliban fighters are preventing Afghans from fleeing Afghanistan
Wednesday, Aug. 18
The Taliban has established checkpoints outside of Kabul International Airport and appear to be preventing Afghans from evacuating,
CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward reported from the streets of Kabul on Wednesday that Taliban fighters were turning fleeing Afghans away from the airport, where U.S. officials insist they are trying to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies. Sporadic automatic gunfire can be heard in the background, which, Ward says, is the sound of Taliban fighters firing over the heads of the crowds.
- Ward said the Taliban understands the poor optics of chaos and crowded streets outside the airport. “So it is not entirely surprising that the Taliban is not exactly embracing this sort of mass exodus,” she said.
- “I’ve covered all sorts of crazy situations. This was mayhem. This was nuts. This was impossible for an ordinary civilian, even if they had their paperwork. No way they’re running that gauntlet,” said Ward of the Taliban checkpoints outside the airport. “There’s no order. There’s no coherent system for processing people.”
.@clarissaward on the scene just outside Kabul airport: "I've covered all sorts of crazy situations. This was mayhem. This was nuts. This was impossible for an ordinary civilian, even if they had their paperwork...There's no coherent system for processing people." pic.twitter.com/hbg82Md4ZZ— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) August 18, 2021
The U.S. military is in control of the international airport, The New York Times reported, but the Taliban have taken up positions outside the gates of the airfield.
- “This gate is closed. Only foreigners and people with documents allowed,” a Taliban checkpoint commander told a crowd of people, according to the Times.
People killed at anti-Taliban protests in Jalalabad
Wednesday, Aug. 18
At least three people were killed after Taliban fighters fired at protesters in the northeastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad, Al Jazeera reported.
- The protesters were shot as the Taliban replaced an Afghan flag with their own banner.
U.S. intelligence agencies predicted a rapid collapse in Afghanistan
Tuesday, Aug. 17
The U.S. intelligence community assessed this summer that the Afghan government would collapse quickly at the hands of the Taliban, The New York Times reported.
- “By July, many intelligence reports grew more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, the capital,” said current and former U.S. officials who spoke with the Times.
- But on July 8, President Joe Biden told reporters that there was “no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy” in Afghanistan, referring to the hasty 1975 evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war.
The strategic decision to sunset America’s involvement in Afghanistan was made well ahead of the bleak assessments of this summer, the Times reported, and U.S. intelligence agencies ultimately suspected that the Taliban would overtake Afghan government.
- Biden said in his address Monday that the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban happened faster than his administration had predicted, but that he had warned President Ashraf Ghani to begin serious talks with the Taliban.
- In 2019, former President Donald Trump made a deal with the Taliban that U.S. military forces would be out of the country by the summer of 2021.
Facebook will continue to ban Taliban accounts
Tuesday, Aug. 17
Facebook, the massive global social media company, said on Tuesday that its ban on Taliban accounts and content would remain, regardless of if the Taliban became the ruling party in Afghanistan, CNN reported.
- “The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under US law and we have banned them from our services under our Dangerous Organization policies,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN, adding that the Taliban has been banned for “years.”
- The ban extended to Facebook’s other social media platforms WhatsApp and Instagram.
Twitter has not formally removed the Taliban from using its platform. The military group does use tweets — in some cases, issuing official statements like a government organization may.
- “The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving,” a spokesperson for Twitter told CNBC. “We’re also witnessing people in the country using Twitter to seek help and assistance. Twitter’s top priority is keeping people safe, and we remain vigilant.”
- Twitter said it does enforce its rule of not allowing posts that glorify violence, the spokesperson said.
Former President George W. Bush deeply saddened by events in Afghanistan
Tuesday, Aug. 17
Former President George W. Bush said that he and former first lady Laura Bush have watched the most recent tragedies in Afghanistan unfold with “deep sadness.”
- “Our hearts are heavy for both the Afghan people who have suffered so much and for the Americans and NATO allies who have sacrificed so much,” Bush, who first deployed U.S. troops to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 to rout out those who planned the 9/11 attacks, said in a statement Monday.
The former president said the U.S. government has the legal ability “to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises.”
- “And we have the responsibility and the resources to secure safe passage for them now, without bureaucratic delay,” Bush added.
The two-term commander in chief — who started both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — addressed U.S. service members, veterans, diplomats and the intelligence community in the statement.
- “Many of you deal with wounds of war, both visible and invisible. And some of your brothers and sisters in arms made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror,” Bush said. “Each day, we have been humbled by your commitment and your courage. You took out a brutal enemy and denied Al Qaeda a safe haven while building schools, sending supplies, and providing medical care. You kept America safe from further terror attacks, provided two decades of security and opportunity for millions, and made America proud. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and will always honor your contributions.”
Bush said that he, Laura and the George W. Bush Presidential Center were prepared to provide assistance to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
- “Let us all resolve to be united in saving lives and praying for the people of Afghanistan,” he concluded.
Pentagon hopes to evacuate 22,000 Afghan allies this month
Monday, Aug. 16
A Pentagon official said Monday that the U.S. military was trying to evacuate around 22,000 Afghan allies by Aug. 31, Military Times reported.
- “Over the next two weeks, we’re going to be as aggressive as we can in moving as many people as we can,” Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby told Military Times.
- “That’s seats on airplanes, not just military airplanes, but commercial and charter airplanes as well,” Kirby added, noting that flights out of Kabul had resumed after being shut down on Monday.
- During America’s global war on terror, the military has used an array of military and chartered flights to move soldiers in and out of theater.
Canada to settle 20,000 Afghans
The news from the Pentagon on Monday comes a few days after Canada pledged to resettle 20,000 Afghans who were more likely to suffer Taliban violence. America’s northern neighbor supported the U.S.-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan.
- The Canadian government said in a statement that it would seek to help Afghans who had aided Canada during the war, and especially vulnerable groups like “women leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals and family members of previously resettled interpreters.”
- “The situation in Afghanistan is continuing to deteriorate, and Afghans’ lives are under threat. To help them, we’re expanding our resettlement program — we’re going to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans and expedite processing timelines, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter Friday.
Biden said he stands ‘squarely behind’ decision to withdraw U.S. military
Monday, Aug. 16
President Joe Biden, the fourth American commander in chief to lead the decadeslong war in Afghanistan, said he stands “squarely behind” his decision to pull American forces out of Afghanistan this year.
- “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” Biden said, speaking from the White House on Monday. It was the first formal statement the president has made since Kabul fell this weekend.
The commander in chief said the fall of Afghanistan did happen faster than his administration had predicted.
He blamed the success of the Taliban’s blitzkrieg across the country on Afghan politicians who “gave up and fled the country,” and because of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military, which in some cases refused to fight the Taliban.
- “American troops cannot, and should not, be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” Biden said.
President said U.S. armed forces have already been successful
Biden said the U.S. military had already completed its mission in Afghanistan, which was to go after the 9/11 attackers and to destabilize al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He added that the mission in Afghanistan was never nation building or creating centralized democratic government.
- “We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him. That was a decade ago.”
The president said America’s military mission is to conduct counterterrorism and that the military has done that effectively without having a permanent presence of U.S. forces in countries where those operations are ongoing.
- He also opened the door for “over the horizon” counterterrorism operations in the region, and warned the Taliban not to attack U.S. forces or American personnel during the evacuations.
- The military response would be “swift and forceful,” and U.S. forces would “defend our people with devastating force,” he said.
Why didn’t the U.S. evacuate its Afghan allies sooner?
The Biden administration has been criticized for the hasty exit, and some have asked why the White House did not start evacuating Afghan allies out of harm’s way sooner.
In his address Monday, Biden said there were two reasons for the delayed withdraw. Both reasons blamed Afghans.
- “Some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country,” he said.
- The other reason, according to the president, was that Afghan officials had discouraged the U.S. from a mass exit that could have “triggered a crisis of confidence” in the Afghan government.
Biden asked God to protect Americans in harm’s way
In closing, Biden said the buck on decision making stops with him and that he had made the right decision to end America’s longest war.
- “I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than to pass this decision to another president of the United States,” Biden said, stating that it was the right decision for America.
- “May God protect our troops, our diplomats and all the great Americans serving in harm’s way.”
7 dead at Kabul airport amid chaos
Monday, Aug. 16
- At least seven people have died during chaos at the Kabul International Airport, as frightened Afghans flocked to the airfield in a desperate attempt to escape the Taliban, The Associated Press reported.
- Several of those deaths included people who clung to the outside of a massive military aircraft and then fell back to the ground after the jet took flight, the AP confirmed.
- It was reported earlier Monday that two armed men had been killed by U.S. forces defending the airport.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement Monday the world was watching the events in Afghanistan “with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead,” and that what happened in the next several days were pivotal to Afghanistan’s future.
- “Much lies in the balance. The progress. The hope. The dreams of a generation of young Afghan women and girls, boys and men,” Guterres said.
- “At this grave hour, I urge all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.”
The secretary-general asked for an immediate end to fighting.
Crowds overrun Kabul International Airport runway, delaying evacuations
Monday, Aug. 16
The day after the Taliban captured the capital city of Kabul, thousands of Afghans fled to the Kabul International Airport, desperate to leave the country.
On Monday, those crowds flooded the airfield and some tried to cling to a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft as it taxied to leave, Reuters reported, causing the U.S. military to temporarily suspend evacuation flights to clear the runway.
- A video posted online by several sources shows an Apache attack helicopter flying low over the runway to clear a path for a C-17 to take off.
- Other videos appear to show several people falling from the military aircraft once it was airborne. According to The Washington Post, there have been reports that some people who clung to the aircraft fell to their deaths.
Crowds of people desperate to escape Afghanistan stormed Kabul’s international airport, rushing onto the tarmac.— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 16, 2021
People clung to the sides of military planes, even as one taxied down the runway, in a bid to flee as the Taliban takes control.https://t.co/BMfaEkDykr pic.twitter.com/WkX0JQx3io
The New York Times, citing a U.S. military official, reported that troops sent to defend the airport had shot and killed “two armed men who approached the Americans at the airport security perimeter and brandished their weapons.”
- Crowds on the runway also delayed U.S. Marine Corp and U.S. Army reinforcements from flying into the capital airport, according to the Times.
In a joint statement Sunday, the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense said it would be increasing the military presence at the airport to around 6,000 troops and that U.S. military would be “taking over air traffic control.” The State Department and Defense Departments said the plan was to defend the airfield while accelerating the evacuation of American citizens and allies.
- The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan has been completely evacuated, reported The Associated Press.
- According to a security alert posted on the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan’s website, it was recommended that Americans continue to “shelter in place” and fill out a “Repatriation Assistance Request” if they needed help evacuating the country.
As of Monday morning, President Joe Biden had not made a public statement on the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. He is expected to address the situation at 1:45 p.m. MDT, according to the New York Times.
Taliban capture Afghanistan’s presidential palace
Sunday, Aug. 15
Taliban fighters in Kabul have entered Afghanistan’s presidential palace, according to Al Jazeera, capturing the seat of the Afghan government.
- “The group’s leadership, surrounded by dozens of armed fighters, addressed the media from the country’s seat of power,” reported Al Jazeera.
- President Ashraf Ghani — without making a peace deal with the Taliban — fled the country before the palace was captured.
Former President Hamid Karzai — the first elected president of Afghanistan after coalition forces initially toppled the Taliban early in the war — said he was organizing a council of senior Afghan leaders to negotiate a peaceful transfer of power, The New York Times reported.
The Associated Press reported that commercial flights out of Kabul International Airport had been suspended amid gunfire near the capital airport, but military evacuation flights continued.
President Ashraf Ghani flees as Taliban begin to move into capital city
Sunday, Aug. 15
President Ashraf Ghani has fled Afghanistan as Taliban fighters begin moving into the capital city of Kabul, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has lasted nearly 20 years and appeared to be coming to an end on Sunday.
Smoke and American military helicopters were seen hovering over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as diplomats destroyed sensitive documents and were ferried to Kabul International Airport, according to AP.
- U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson had also left the embassy and was setting up a diplomatic post at the airport, CBS News reported Sunday.
- “The security situation in Kabul is changing quickly including at the airport. There are reports of the airport taking fire; therefore we are instructing U.S. citizens to shelter in place,” the U.S. Embassy wrote in a security alert Sunday.
A Taliban blitzkrieg has taken Afghanistan
In only a week, the Taliban has captured the major provincial capital of Afghanistan — to include the second-largest city of Kandahar — and appeared ready to take Kabul without much of a fight.
- Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump had set 2021 as the deadline for the U.S. involvement in the decadeslong war.
- American troops — which had all but left the country — have been redeployed to Afghanistan to secure the airport and the U.S. withdrawal from the country.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Twitter that its forces were entering the capital to allegedly maintain security, The New York Times reported.
- “The Islamic Emirates ordered its forces to enter the areas of Kabul city from which the enemy has left because there is risk of theft and robbery,” the spokesman said in the statement, according to the Times. “Our forces are entering Kabul city with all caution.”
Biden sends more troops to secure retreat
President Joe Biden authorized the deployment of 5,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to ensure an “orderly and safe drawdown” of American citizens and allies out of the country, according to a White House statement Saturday.
- “I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” Biden said in statement.
Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both balked at comparisons of the Afghanistan withdrawal to the 1975 airlift of United State’s military and diplomatic personnel from the rooftop of the American embassy at the end of the Vietnam War.