In scenes reminiscent of the fall of Saigon in 1975 to North Vietnamese troops, helicopters hovered over the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, and chaos took hold at Kabul’s international airport. So desperate were some Afghans to flee the country that they clung to the outside of departing aircraft; seven people are reported to have died. They were trying to flee the Taliban, the alleged religious students, and their leaders, who had overrun the country without any discernible resistance from the US-trained Afghan troops. It was the speed with which the Taliban took over the country that accounted, in large part, for much of the chaos. The US and its allies in Afghanistan were ill-prepared for the rapid fall of the country to the Taliban. As US President Joseph Biden remarked, he expected Afghan leaders to fight for their country.

That hope fell drastically short of his expectation. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, allegedly with bags of money, so many, in fact, that some of it had to be left behind on the tarmac because no more could be put into four cars and a helicopter. His whereabouts remain unknown for now, although earlier reports claimed that he had fled to Tajikistan.

Across Afghanistan, people who could not leave the country began to dress more conservatively, in keeping with the diktats of a fundamentalist movement that permits no alternative. Men have begun to grow their beards once again and women grieve their lost freedoms, such as they were while US forces were in Afghanistan. The Taliban themselves say that they have changed and will demonstrate a more moderate presence, that they are not the same as they were pre-2001, but the stories that are already beginning to trickle out of Afghanistan say differently.

The fall of Afghanistan is also a geopolitical issue, with ramifications for the US, China, Pakistan and India. This paper will attempt to examine some of those.

Key points:

  • President Biden has blamed, in turn, the Afghan Government, its security forces, his predecessor Donald Trump and the US intelligence community for the fall of Afghanistan.
  • However, closer examination of his accusations shows that they are misplaced.
  • Biden appears unwilling to blame himself for the chaotic situation in Afghanistan.
  • He dismissed all advice that the Afghan Government could fall but then abandoned the country to the Taliban.
  • That begs the question, can the US be trusted in difficult situations such as Taiwan?
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