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In Taliban’s 7-day march to energy, a shocking string of wins



In simply seven days, any lingering goals of a free Afghanistan died.

As final week dawned, many clung to hope that the Taliban could possibly be held again, although key commerce routes had been seized, border crossings overtaken and swaths of distant areas clutched. However then, in only a week, militants received metropolis after metropolis, toppled the federal government and grabbed the grand prize of Kabul.

On its streets, adverts with girls in Western garments have been lined in white paint, whereas males in denims and T-shirts rushed to alter into conventional tunics. On the U.S. embassy, workers raced to destroy paperwork as helicopters shuttled away diplomats.

Fingers as soon as splashed with purple ink — residue of voting, a badge of democracy — now clenched tickets searching for exit, and franticly punched ATMs to withdraw life financial savings.

All in seven days.

“The one factor individuals are excited about is survive right here or escape,” stated Aisha Khurram, a 22-year-old headed to class Sunday at Kabul College earlier than being turned again, not sure whether or not she would ever have the ability to return, or if females will as soon as once more be barred from faculty. “The one factor we’ve got is our God.”

Even for a rustic scarred by generations of warfare, it was an astonishing week.


The week dawns with news that insurgents claimed the northern cities of Aybak and Sar-e Pul.

In some districts, pro-government forces give up with out a struggle. In others, the place firefights sprout, determined residents areforced from their properties, trudging a whole lot of kilometers on foot in exodus.

“We walked with slippers, didn’t have the possibility to put on our footwear,” says Bibi Ruqia, who left northern Takhar province for Kabul after a bomb hit her home. “We needed to escape.”

The autumn of Aybak and Sar-e Pul pleases the Taliban fighters; afterward, they’re seen on video relishing their victory outdoors one of many authorities buildings they now managed.

However People and the Afghan troops they spent years coaching had causes to take coronary heart: The cities have been simply the fourth and fifth provincial capitals to crumble. Twenty-nine extra remained.


Within the glowing Qatari capital of Doha, American envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrives with a warning to the Taliban: Any features made by power can be met with worldwide condemnation and guarantee their standing as international pariahs.

The effectiveness of the diplomacy is diminished, although, by Taliban forces’ push into the western metropolis of Farah. They’re seen in entrance of the provincial governor’s workplace.

As the US’ self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw its troops nears, the Taliban steadily features floor whereas a whole lot of 1000’s are displaced. Kabul’s parks swell with the newly homeless, whereas the United Nations releases tallies of civilian deaths and accidents they know would solely develop.

“The true figures,” says U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, “can be a lot larger.”


Three extra provincial capitals fall in Badakhshan, Baghlan and Farah, giving the Taliban management over two-thirds of the nation. With these areas misplaced, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rushes to Balkh province, already surrounded by Taliban-controlled land, to safe assist from warlords linked to allegations of atrocities and corruption. However he’s determined to push again the insurgents.

On the White Home, President Joe Biden indicators off on a plan to mount a full-scale evacuation of Afghans searching for to flee their nation after a brand new intelligence evaluation makes clear the nation’s authorities and navy are unwilling or unable to mount any important resistance. Afghan particular forces, left to choose up a lot of the burden of defending a number of fronts, are stretched more and more skinny.

Because the Taliban’s drive widens, they emerge in additional and elements of the nation carrying M-16 rifles and driving Humvees and Ford pickup vans, tools paid for by American taxpayers.


Any hope that the Taliban’s successes is likely to be restricted to Afghanistan’s extra distant reaches vanish, because the nation’s second- and third-largest cities are captured.

With Kandahar and Herat, a dozen provincial capitals at the moment are within the group’s grasp. And with safety quickly deteriorating, the U.S. reverses course, asserting 3,000 troops can be despatched to assist evacuate the embassy.

Zahra, a 26-year-old resident of Herat, is on her technique to dinner along with her mom and three sisters when she sees folks working and heard gunshots blast. “The Taliban are right here!” folks scream.

She spent most of her life in an Afghanistan the place ladies obtained an training and ladies dared to dream of careers and she or he had spent the previous 5 years working with nonprofit organizations to press for gender equality. Now, her final title is shrouded to keep away from making her a goal, and she or he hunkers down indoors along with her household.

“How can it’s potential for me as a girl who has labored so laborious and tried to be taught and advance, to now have to cover myself and keep at house?” she asks.

Taliban fighters lastly break by at Herat after two weeks of assaults. As they transfer in, witnesses inform of Taliban members as soon as detained within the metropolis’s jail are noticed shifting freely in its streets.


Because the Taliban push ever additional into the nation they as soon as once more search to rule, studies of revenge killings trickle out: A comic. A authorities media chief. Others.

Indicators of a brand new day in Afghanistan proliferate.

In Herat, two alleged looters are paraded by the streets with black make-up smeared on their faces, reminders of the unsparing model of Islamic regulation the Taliban has imposed. In Kandahar, militants commandeer a radio station that had beamed Pashto and Indian songs into residents’ properties, music banned by the Taliban. The tunes cease, abruptly. And the station is renamed Voice of Sharia.

Militants full their sweep of the nation’s south, taking 4 extra provincial capitals. Amongst them is Helmand province, the place American, British and different allied NATO forces fought a few of their bloodiest battles. Tons of of Western troops died there in the course of the conflict. Now, a lot of their households ask why.


Ghani delivers a televised speech by which he vows not to surrender achievements of the 20 years for the reason that Taliban have been toppled. However the group pushes ahead, notching extra victories.

Alongside the Pakistani border, the provinces of Paktika and Kunar fall. Within the north, Faryab province is taken. And within the nation’s heart, Daykundi is captured. Largest of all, Mazar-e-Sharif — the nation’s fourth-largest metropolis, a closely defended swath that authorities forces had pledged to defend — is now beneath Taliban management.

The unfolding catastrophe prompts a press release from President Joe Biden, standing agency in his choice to complete the withdrawal of U.S. forces that started beneath Donald Trump.

“I used to be the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats,” he stated. “I’d not, and won’t, move this conflict onto a fifth.”

In Kabul, lengthy strains kind outdoors the worldwide airport. Afghans searching for to flee push carts loaded with carpets, televisions and mementos as they waited hours to enter the terminal.

On regular days, Afghans in enterprise fits and conventional gown mingle beside tattooed navy contractors in wraparound sun shades and help employees from throughout the globe. Now, the panicked plenty fill the airport, scrambling to depart.

Farid Ahmad Younusi deserted his Kandahar contracting agency for an opportunity to flee. All the pieces he constructed, he says, now seemed to be misplaced, and militants have been looking for him.

“Taliban have every part that I labored for over the previous 20 years,” he says.

In sight of the airport, the mountains ringing the capital rise within the distance because the partitions appear to shut in. As Saturday wears on, news arrives of recent Taliban wins.

Simply south of the capital, Logar province falls. To the north, insurgents take Mihterlam, reportedly with out a struggle. Members of the Taliban are reported within the Char Asyab district, simply 11 kilometers (7 miles) from Kabul.

The town’s destiny appears all however sealed.


The Taliban seize Jalalabad, the final main metropolis apart from the capital, and a string of victories follows. The capitals of Maidan Wardak, Khost, Kapisa and Parwan provinces, in addition to the nation’s final government-held border publish falls to militants, and Afghan forces at Bagram Air Base, house to a jail housing 5,000 inmates, give up.

Insurgents had no air power and simply days earlier had no main metropolis. They have been far outnumbered by Afghan troops, who have been educated by the American navy, essentially the most well-funded and strongest on the planet. And but, the unattainable is now true: The capital of Kabul and its 5 million residents is theirs.

Helicopters whirr. Smoke rises. The American flag is lowered on the embassy.

Ghani, who hours earlier urged his folks not to surrender, has now fled himself, his deserted palace occupied by closely armed fighters, his title cursed by his personal countrymen.

“They tied our fingers from behind and bought the nation,” says Protection Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.

Within the U.S., Biden’s CIA director cuts quick a overseas journey to return to Washington. Others within the administration reject comparisons to the autumn of Saigon whilst many discover the resemblance unattainable to disregard. With preparations underway to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 assaults that drove the U.S. to conflict, the highest American normal warns of an increase in terrorist threats to return.

Whiplash over the sheer velocity of Afghanistan’s fall jars these in seats of energy.

“You wish to imagine that trillions of {dollars} and 20 years of funding provides as much as one thing,” says Sen. Chris Murphy, a Biden ally and member of the Senate Overseas Relations Committee.

Evening falls with Taliban fighters deployed throughout the capital. Deserted police posts are claimed. And on almost empty streets, males carry the black-and-white flag of the Taliban.

Their victory is full.


Related Press writers Zeke Miller, Matthew Lee and Nomaan Service provider in Washington and Rahim Faiez in Istanbul contributed to this report.


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