Eight Days in Kabul

if you think this has a happy ending, you're not paying attention

One thing the USA can do better than anyone else is move a lot of people quickly even in the most hazardous environment. As mentioned by MG Taylor, USA this AM, in the last 24-hrs 25 C-17, 3 C-130 and 61 commercial aircraft carried 16,000 people out of Kabul. The US military was responsible for a little under 11,000 of those. 

As August 31st approaches, those numbers are good, but time is running out. Over the next 8 days, we need to keep a few things in mind.

1. August 31st is the Taliban’s requirement, not the Biden Administration’s desire: 

Taliban spokesman Dr Suhail Shaheen said the group will not accept an extension to the deadline and warned of retaliation if Western forces extend their 'occupation' since the group dramatically swept to power.

He told Sky News: 'It's a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.

'If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations - the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. 

'It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.'

The Taliban have zero reason to extend, and some of our leaders are foolish to think they care about what Western politicians care about;

...the Taliban will have a choice: they can either seek to engage with the international community and show that they want to be a part of the international system, they want to be engaged in international diplomacy, or they can turn around and say there is no opportunity for an extension.

... 'I think everybody has to be clear that this is not just a discussion that happens between G7 leaders tomorrow, it is a discussion which happens with the Taliban.'

2. We will leave our people behind. Afghanistan is the size of France. Even in Kabul, many we want to get out are having trouble getting to the airport. From the reports I’ve seen, those outside Kabul are having trouble getting in. In the present timeline, it is unavoidable that Americans, Green Card holders and those who worked with us will be left behind. I am sure extraordinary efforts are underway that we’ll find out about later.

No one from the White House, State Department or Pentagon has been able to give a number for how many American citizens remain in Afghanistan.  

It's unclear if or when the US will start flying Afghans out again.

...

President Joe Biden last night said he 'hoped not to' extend the date for pulling his 6,000 remaining US troops from Kabul. The current date is August 31.

3. At some point, we will have to transition from getting non-combatants out of Kabul to simply getting our remaining 6,000 uniformed Americans and even more allied forces out. That will be a point of the most extreme danger when the masses of civilians realize their clock is out. We will be totally at the mercy of the Taliban at that point, even more than now.

4. More will come. Be prepared for millions of Afghans who will be looking for another country to go to. The international community will have to find some construct to deal with this. Hard discussions will need to be had on what our obligations are and to whom. It can’t be everyone. 

No one knows the future, but if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention. The possible 2nd and 3rd order effects from this disastrous end to the Afghan occupation will echo for years to come. As we reviewed on yesterday’s Midrats, good people can argue the utility of leaving or not, but that point is moot. The issue is how we’ve done it. 

I would be hard pressed to outline a greater failure of the United States national security infrastructure – all of it – than what we are seeing now. We need to accept that fact right in front of our face and decide what we need to do to make a system that better serves our nation. The one we have today does not.

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