‘The Taliban are not the North Vietnamese army, they are not. Under no circumstances will you see people being blown off the roof of a US embassy in Afghanistan. It cannot be compared. Joe Biden said it on July 8, less than a month and a half ago. It was a reference to the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975, with American helicopters rushing out diplomats and Vietnamese allies in the last moments of the Vietnam War. An unfortunate episode in US history that yesterday, despite Biden’s words, had its reply.
Reality has made the president eat his predictions. During yesterday,
the helicopters flew nonstop from the rooftop of the American embassy in Kabul, while the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital. The Chinooks and Black Hawks were relieved on flights to remove diplomatic personnel from the building, heading for the airport, the only point of departure from the country, with all border regions controlled by the insurgents.
In the same sky in which the helicopters flew, columns of black smoke rose from the embassy. Diplomats burned documents before leaving the building. A few days ago, a State Department circular was released instructing consular personnel to destroy sensitive documents, computers and mobile phones in the event of the insurgents taking over the city.
Among those escaping the building was the American ambassador, Ross Wilson, who took with him the US flag that had been flying until now at the diplomatic mission. According to the BBC, Wilson left the country shortly after.
The US plans yesterday were to establish its embassy in a building within the airport complex. The White House has so far refused to call the departure of its diplomatic staff and citizens from Kabul an evacuation. Has used subterfuges such as ‘retreat’ or ‘reduction in the size of our civilian presence’. When he refers to his Afghan allies, the tens of thousands who collaborated with the US during the twenty years of war and who are now in danger, he does speak of evacuation. But he does not give details of how many he will be able to remove from the country, a reason for the desperation of his allies until yesterday.
Regardless of the noun chosen by the US authorities, the appearance of their departure has been one of chaotic rout. The Kabul airport was abuzz with US diplomats, military and civilians. and other allied countries, eager to get out of the country as fast as possible. Those who had a ticket were put on a bracelet to distinguish it. Hordes of anguished Afghans were also arriving there, trying to flee before the Taliban, who already controlled the city, began to enforce their law.
In the afternoon, the situation worsened at the airport, amid mounting tensions and news that Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, had left the country and that the Taliban would declare the arrival of the emirate from the presidential palace. Shootings were reported and the US embassy told its nationals to seek refuge and stay from where they were.
Faced with chaos, the secretary of state, Antony Blink, assured that the US exit was being “safe and orderly.” The same Blinken who said in June about a possible Taliban avalanche in Afghanistan that “I don’t think it’s something that happens from Friday to Monday. So we must not associate the departure of our forces in July, August or early September with an immediate deterioration of the situation.
Reality, again, shows that the White House made a major mistake in the analysis of the scenario that would lead to its departure. In that same appearance on July 8, Biden assured that “the possibility of the Taliban expanding everywhere and controlling the entire country is very unlikely.” He also said that the fall of the Government of Kabul it was not “inevitable” because they had an army of 300,000 men – in which the United States has spent 83,000 million dollars alone in assembling it – “as good as any other army in the world.”
“It’s not true,” he jumped when told that US intelligence predicted that the Kabul government would collapse as soon as the Americans got out of there. The analyzes that Biden preferred to hear are those that said it would take about 18 months for the Taliban to take Kabul. Then that forecast dropped to between six and twelve months. In recent weeks, the Taliban were found to cut through the Afghan army like a knife through hot butter. The last minute decision to send a contingent of 5,000 men did not prevent the fiasco.
The Kabul stampede turns a popular electoral promise – to abandon a war costly in lives and money – an indelible stain on Biden’s presidency.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism