Fear and loathing at the embassy in Kabul

(AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

We learned on Friday that President Joe Biden doesn’t like to be asked questions about the situation in Afghanistan because he would prefer to talk about “happy things.” But somebody is going to have to start answering questions fairly soon because the conditions in and around the capital city of Kabul are growing dire. As we previously discussed, the primary military airbase at Bagram has been evacuated of allied troops and turned over to the local Afghan authorities, but it was almost immediately overrun by looters. Now the remaining American troops and diplomatic workers are all located in the heavily fortified embassy and at the International airport. But the road between the two is no longer considered safe to travel, and all movement in and out of the embassy is being done using helicopters. There now seems to be little doubt as to how this story ends, assuming there was anyone left who couldn’t have predicted it. (Associated Press)

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson told The Associated Press that security assessments are frequent these days. Speaking on condition of anonymity in line with briefing rules, she said the embassy is currently down to 1,400 U.S. citizens and about 4,000 staff working inside the compound the size of a small town…

The only route out is Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, currently protected by U.S. and Turkish troops. Before America can declare its war over, the security of the airport will have to be settled. Ankara is in talks with Washington, the United Nations and the Afghan government to decide who will protect the airport and who will foot the bill…

In Kabul, it’s common to hear speculation about when and if the U.S. Embassy will evacuate and shut down, with images resurrected of America’s last days in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war.

The local warlords and their violent militias are now back in power around the city with the permission of Ashraf Ghani. They are nearly as bad as the Taliban on the best of days, though they supposedly oppose the terror group. But why did they need to bring back and formally deputized the militias? Well, for one thing, the regular troops of the Afghanistan Army that we helped train are fleeing the country by the thousands this week, as recently reported in the Washington Post.

There is no longer any place considered “safe” from the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan except for the embassy and the airport. And the safety of those locations is dubious. One embassy worker who arrived in the country several months ago told reporters that he has yet to step foot outside the embassy grounds since being flow into the compound on a helicopter. There is also a pressing question of keeping up a steady flow of supplies to keep the compound running and care for the needs of the troops and workers there.

This brief video report from CNN provides an unusually candid assessment of the situation around the embassy. Officials there are reportedly “urgently updating” their evacuation plans.

It seems impossible that the people in charge of this operation couldn’t see this coming. It’s been predicted for months, if not years. How was the evacuation of the embassy not gamed out months before the first serious troop withdrawals began, leaving them in need of “urgent updates” now?

Both the Trump and Biden administrations seem to have had blinders on to some degree, believing that the Taliban would hang back and adhere to at least some of the agreements they made and put on a show of pretending to negotiate with the current, US-backed government once we were mostly out of the country. That’s obviously not the case. They have been retaking every province where Afghan troops have bugged out as quickly as they’ve departed. And now the sharks appear to be circling the capital. Earlier this year I speculated that Ashraf Ghani’s government wouldn’t last until Christmas once the bulk of our forces had left. I was clearly being far too much of an optimist. Afghanistan is collapsing into a civil war even now, and the smart money has to be on the Taliban to win.