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Special Report: Afghanistan, One Year Later

One year after America's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country has further descended into chaos and conflict.
Special Report: Afghanistan, One Year Later

Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Sunday disclosed the findings of their inquiry into the Biden administration’s calamitous evacuation from Afghanistan a year ago, an apparent blueprint for a deeper investigation of the president and his top advisers should the GOP win the House majority in November’s midterm elections, reports the Washington Post.

Biden botched Afghan withdrawal, new GOP House report claims (Washington Post)

Excerpt from the Washington Post: A draft of their report, provided to the Washington Post, contains new details about the number of Americans left behind when the last military transport departed Kabul’s international airport and the paucity of State Department officers on hand to process the tens of thousands of Afghans trying to flee the Taliban’s takeover. A spokesman for the agency said that officials had briefed Congress more than 150 times since the withdrawal, and continue to update lawmakers on efforts to relocate and resettle Afghans. The evacuation, unprecedented in scale, was carried out over the last two weeks of August 2021, after the Taliban swept into Kabul, the capital, forcing the U.S.-backed government’s instantaneous collapse. More than 120,000 people were airlifted out of the country, but the mission was overshadowed by a suicide attack that killed an estimated 200 Afghans and 13 American troops, and then a botched U.S. drone strike that left 10 civilians dead. President Biden and his national security team have faced withering criticism for ordering a complete withdrawal despite Pentagon recommendations that the military maintain a modest footprint in Afghanistan to enable local forces. Critics also have faulted his administration for the disorder, both before and during the evacuation, that for many thwarted their attempts to escape.
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As part of that frantic evacuation a year ago,  journalist Fatema Hosseini was crouched near a Taliban checkpoint at the Kabul airport, covered head to toe in a burqa, sweaty, dizzy and scared, writes the USA Today.

‘I still have nightmares of Afghanistan.’ A female journalist escaped the Taliban, but she is not free. (USA Today)

Excerpt from USA Today: The Taliban had taken over Afghanistan's capital city four days earlier and masses of Afghans swarmed the airport, desperate for flights out. The Taliban guarding the gates said they would shoot anyone who stood. So Hosseini was duckwalking, trying to stay low but trying to push forward. A tear gas canister landed in front of her. Tears filled her eyes; her head felt heavy. She was trapped in the middle of a large family. When people started running and pushing from the gas, she stood, too, and a man reached around and grabbed her between her legs. She froze. Bullets zipped over her head. A woman smacked her on the back and said: "Sit down! They’re going to shoot you!" Instead she stood taller and shouted, “I want to get out!” She would get out. First to Kyiv, Ukraine, and then to the United States. Today, she's a college student and an emerging U.S. journalist. She and her family are safely out of reach of the Taliban. But she is not at rest. "I still have nightmares of seeing myself in Afghanistan," she told me. "I still have dreams of being chased by the Taliban."
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In a related story about the evacuation, according to the New York Post, more than $7 billion worth of US-provided military equipment was in the hands of the Western-backed Afghan government when it collapsed last year — and much of it fell into the hands of the Taliban after the Biden bugout, the Defense Department’s inspector general said in a report released Tuesday.

More than $7B in US military equipment seized by Taliban: Pentagon watchdog (New York Post)

Excerpt from the New York Post: The bulk of the outlay, the watchdog said, was for tactical ground vehicles like Humvees and mine-resistant MRAPs — about $4.12 billion of which was in the Afghan military’s inventory when the Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021. The report also noted that the lost materiel included $923.3 million worth of military aircraft, "some of which were demilitarized and rendered inoperable during the evacuation," and $294.6 million in aircraft munitions. The IG’s office added that the Pentagon’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, which provided the figures, had claimed that "the Afghan forces were heavily reliant on U.S. contractor support to maintain both their aircraft and ground vehicle fleets, and without this continued support, the long-term operability of these assets would be limited."
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As for the current state of Afghanistan today, a bomb blast that killed at least 21 worshipers, including an influential cleric, and injured more than 30 others in Afghanistan’s capital during evening prayers on Wednesday evening has renewed focus on the threat to the Taliban posed by Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate, according to the Washington Post.

How strong is the Islamic State in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan? (Washington Post)

Excerpt from the Washington Post: Residents of the Khair Khana area of Kabul told the Washington Post that the prayer leader who was killed, Amir Mohammad Kabuli, was an outspoken preacher unaffiliated with any one faction. No group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s blast, but it came a week after the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K), a rival of the Taliban, claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed Rahimullah Haqqani, a prominent Taliban-linked cleric. It’s the latest in a string of attacks, many of which have been attributed to ISIS-K, since the Taliban swept to national power in Afghanistan a year ago. ISIS-K is most associated with Iraq and Syria, where the brutal extremist group held huge swaths of territory under its self-declared "caliphate" at the group’s peak in late 2014. Known for its transnational recruitment and appetite for violence, ISIS saw its power decline sharply after a U.S.-coalition drove it from the last of its territory in 2019. But the militant organization and offshoots continue to stage attacks and fuel violence and instability in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.
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And in another uprising against the Taliban, the New York Times recounts the story of Mawlawi Mahdi Mujahid, a former Shiite commander within the mostly Sunni Taliban who had recently renounced the new Taliban government and seized control of a district.

The Bloody Uprising Against the Taliban Led by One of Their Own (New York Times)

Excerpt from the New York Times: For months, the Taliban had tried to bring him back into their fold, wary of his growing clout among some Afghan Shiites eager to rebel against a movement that persecuted them for decades. Now, Taliban forces were massing around the district he controlled — and Mahdi and his men were readying to fight. "If the Taliban do not want an inclusive government, if they do not give rights to Shiites and to women, then we will never be able to have peace in Afghanistan," said one fighter, Sayed Qasim, 70. "As long as we have blood in our body we will fight." The clashes were the latest in a conflict brewing across northern Afghanistan in which a smattering of armed factions have been challenging the heavy hand of the Taliban government — a harsh reminder that Afghanistan has not yet escaped the cycles of violence and bloodshed that defined the country for the past 40 years.
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