After 20 years of diplomacy and support, American officials are present contemplating the harrowing question of whether — and however — they mightiness prosecute with a Taliban authorities successful Afghanistan.
Published Aug. 15, 2021Updated Aug. 16, 2021, 2:17 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — The autumn of Kabul connected Sunday near the Biden medication facing the once-unthinkable imaginable of whether, and how, to prosecute with a Taliban-led authorities successful Afghanistan’s capital — oregon cede each power successful the state to an extremist radical that brutalized Afghans and harbored Osama bin Laden arsenic helium planned attacks connected America.
The sudden exile of President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, conscionable hours aft President Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken each assured him of afloat American support, gives the Taliban small inducement to negociate a transitional authorities for a state successful crisis, said 2 U.S. officials progressive successful discussions wrong the administration.
The officials said Mr. Ghani fled his state without telling his furniture oregon leaving plans for a authorities handover. That has each but ensured the Taliban’s ascent to powerfulness — 1 that the Biden medication tin lone anticipation volition beryllium carried retired arsenic peacefully arsenic possible.
It besides apt extinguishes a long-stalled American effort for bid talks toward establishing a power-sharing strategy betwixt the Taliban and Afghanistan’s elected leaders, and leaves U.S. officials hoping that a radical that has defied astir each pleas for moderation successful caller months volition support immoderate semblance of women’s and governmental rights and grant a pledge not to harbor Qaeda terrorists.
Mr. Blinken said the United States would enactment talks betwixt the Afghan authorities and the Taliban “about the mode forward.”
The main American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, was successful Doha, Qatar, moving with the United Nations and different planetary diplomats “to spot if determination tin beryllium a peaceful solution going forward, a peaceful settlement, a peaceful transportation of powerfulness that would beryllium bully for the radical of Afghanistan to debar further bloodshed,” Mr. Blinken said connected NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
One authoritative said Mr. Khalilzad was moving to get an statement from Afghan leaders — including Abdullah Abdullah, the president of Afghan nationalist reconciliation council, which was acceptable up past year, and perchance Hamid Karzai, the erstwhile president — to commencement talks with Taliban negotiators. Both men are believed to beryllium among the lone Afghan officials near who person capable governmental lasting to transportation the Taliban to sermon adjacent steps.
But privately, Biden medication officials said they were facing a bitter world of having small to nary power implicit a bid process that present appears to beryllium small much than a negotiated surrender by a defeated Afghan government.
Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, blamed some the Biden and Trump administrations for what she called the “devastating, catastrophic real-time lesson” of withdrawing U.S. troops from a federation wherever a tenuous authorities depended connected subject assistance. But she had peculiarly crisp words for erstwhile President Donald J. Trump and his caput of state, Mike Pompeo, who oversaw a February 2020 statement with the Taliban to extremity the war.
“They walked down this way of legitimizing the Taliban, of perpetuating this fantasy, telling the American radical that the Taliban were a spouse for peace,” Ms. Cheney said connected ABC’s “This Week.”
“President Trump told america that the Taliban was going to combat terror,” Ms. Cheney said. “Secretary Pompeo told america that the Taliban was going to renounce Al Qaeda. None of that has happened.”
After taking bureau successful January, Mr. Biden decided to instrumentality to the statement with the Taliban, which Mr. Khalilzad brokered. On Sunday, Mr. Blinken sought to marque the lawsuit that the woody committed the United States to withdrawing its troops oregon facing the definite imaginable of attacks connected Americans successful Afghanistan who were already astatine hazard fixed a dwindling fig of information forces who could support them.
He called the astonishing gait of the Taliban’s nationwide rout “a precise fluid situation.”
The past American unit astatine the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul fled to the capital’s planetary airport connected Sunday, sheltering successful what Mr. Blinken described earlier successful the time arsenic a tiny but enduring ngo to beryllium located determination portion leaving down a sprawling compound, stripped of its American flag, successful the bosom of Kabul.
Moving diplomatic offices to the airdrome volition let officials to swiftly depart if nether contiguous threat, and Mr. Blinken said it would support an American beingness successful Afghanistan arsenic the Biden medication has promised. At the aforesaid time, embassy officials urged American citizens who were inactive successful Afghanistan to structure successful spot and resubmit paperwork to petition assistance for evacuating alternatively of showing up astatine the airport, fixed reports of gunfire there.
While briefing members of Congress connected the fast-moving developments, Mr. Blinken said the State Department was creating a caller task unit for Afghanistan issues, to beryllium led by Dean Thompson, the acting adjunct caput for South and Central Asian affairs, according to a idiosyncratic acquainted with the call.
Despite the United States investing billions of dollars and suffering the deaths of thousands of Americans during a 20-year warfare successful Afghanistan, it present has constricted power implicit the swiftly unfolding endgame successful Kabul. The question present is what leverage, if any, the Biden medication mightiness person implicit a authorities controlled successful portion oregon wholly by the Taliban.
For months, Biden officials person offered the hopeful rationale that the Taliban mightiness mean their behaviour erstwhile successful powerfulness to triumph diplomatic designation and overseas aid. During a sojourn to Afghanistan successful April, Mr. Blinken called it “very important that the Taliban admit that it volition ne'er beryllium morganatic and it volition ne'er beryllium durable if it rejects a governmental process and tries to instrumentality the state by force.”
And during an interrogation with Al Jazeera past month, Mr. Blinken warned that “if an Afghanistan emerges that does not respect the basal rights of its people, that abuses the rights of women and girls, that does not respect the basal gains of the past 20 years, that Afghanistan volition beryllium a pariah successful the planetary community.”
But the Taliban’s summertime rampage crossed the state has near specified hopes successful shambles. While the radical attended bid talks with Afghan authorities officials successful the ostensible pursuit of a power-sharing agreement, its accelerated takeover suggests it was ne'er acting successful bully faith.
The group’s beforehand crossed the state has been marked by reports of massacres, targeted executions of authorities officials, information forces and civilian nine leaders, and forced “marriages” of women that quality rights groups equate to intersexual slavery.
“The Taliban are an ideological group, not conscionable a radical of politicians seeking powerfulness — they cannot spell excessively acold from their content system,” said Husain Haqqani, a erstwhile Pakistani ambassador to Washington who is present a elder chap astatine the blimpish Hudson Institute. “The conception that the tendency for planetary legitimacy outweighs someone’s halfway beliefs is simply a phantasy that has led Americans into unrealistic expectations and erroneous policies before.”
On Sunday, Mr. Blinken besides said the Taliban should not situation to beryllium caught sheltering planetary terrorists similar bin Laden, who planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from Afghanistan.
“The Taliban person a definite self-interest successful this,” Mr. Blinken said connected “Meet the Press.” “They cognize what happened the past clip they harbored a violent radical that attacked the United States. It’s not successful their self-interest to let a repetition of that.”
Mr. Haqqani noted, however, that the United States had demanded earlier the 2001 attacks that the Taliban manus implicit bin Laden and was rebuffed.
In a peculiarly ominous development, the Taliban connected Sunday claimed to person freed prisoners held astatine the Bagram Air Base extracurricular Kabul, wherever “high value” Qaeda members had been detained, according to Bill Roggio, a longtime Afghanistan expert astatine the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This volition reverberate for years to come,” helium wrote connected Twitter.
As the United States raced to evacuate unit from its embassy successful Kabul, quality and exile rights groups sharply criticized the Biden medication for not moving faster to relocate America’s Afghan allies from a state wherever they were astatine hazard of lethal Taliban reprisals.
“Unless determination is simply a swift and meaningful effort to evacuate the thousands of allies and their families to the United States oregon a U.S. territory, we volition person breached our committedness to permission nary 1 behind,” Jennifer Quigley, elder manager for authorities affairs astatine Human Rights First, said successful a statement.
Earlier this month, the Biden medication announced that Afghans not eligible for the Special Immigrant Visa programme created by Congress to support those who had assisted the American subject — including those who worked for U.S.-based media organizations and nongovernmental organizations — could use for high-priority exile status.
But U.S. officials said those Afghans, who whitethorn fig successful the tens of thousands, indispensable archetypal permission the state nether their ain auspices simply to statesman an exertion process that tin instrumentality much than a year.
With the Taliban successful power of cities, highways and borderline crossings, it whitethorn present beryllium excessively precocious for galore of them to leave.