Tuesday, August 31, 2021

U.S. destroys helicopters, military equipment in wake of Afghanistan exodus ...

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) — The twisted remains of several all-terrain vehicles leaned precariously inside Baba Mir’s sprawling scrap yard, alongside smashed shards that were once generators, tank tracks that have been dismantled into chunks of metal, and mountains of tents reduced to sliced up fabric.

It’s all U.S. military equipment. The Americans dismantled  their portion of nearby Bagram Air Base, their largest  outpost in Afghanistan, and anything that is not being taken home or given to the Afghan military is being destroyed as completely as possible, even small outposts were dismantled or reduced to rubble.

They do so as a security measure, to ensure equipment doesn’t fall into the hands of militants. But Mir and the dozens of other scrap sellers around Bagram see it as an infuriating waste.

“What they are doing is a betrayal of Afghans. They should leave,” he said. “Like they have destroyed this vehicle, they have destroyed us.”

As the last few thousand U.S. and NATO troops head out the door, ending their own 20-year war in Afghanistan, they are involved in a massive logistical undertaking, packing up bases around the country. They leave behind a population where many are frustrated and angry. The Afghans feel abandoned to a legacy they blame at least in part on the Americans — a deeply corrupt U.S.-backed government and growing instability that could burst into brutal new phase of civil war.

The bitterness of the scrapyard owners is only a small part of that, and it’s based somewhat on self-interest: They feel they they could have profited more from selling intact equipment.

It’s been a common theme for the past two traumatic and destructive decades in which actions that the U.S. touted as necessary or beneficial only disillusioned Afghans who felt the repercussions.

At Bagram, northwest of the capital of Kabul, and other bases, U.S. forces are taking stock of equipment to be returned to America. Tens of thousands of metal containers, about 20 feet long, are being shipped out on C-17 cargo planes or by road through Pakistan and Central Asia. As of last week, 60 C-17s packed with equipment already had left Afghanistan.

Officials are being secretive about what stays and what goes. Most of what is being shipped home is sensitive equipment never intended to be left behind, according to U.S. and Western officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk freely about departing troops.

Other equipment, including helicopters, military vehicles, weapons and ammunition, will be handed over to Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces. Some bases will be given to them as well. One of those most recently handed over was the New Antonik base in Helmand province, where Taliban are said to control roughly 80% of the rural area.

Destined for the scrap heap are equipment and vehicles that can neither be repaired nor transferred to Afghanistan’s security forces because of poor condition.

So far about 1,300 pieces of equipment have been destroyed, said a U.S. military statement. There will be more before the final deadline for departure on Sept. 11, said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The practice is not new. The same was done in 2014, when thousands of troops withdrew as the U.S. and NATO handed Afghanistan’s security over to Afghans. More than 387 million pounds (176 million kilograms) of scrap from destroyed equipment and vehicles was sold to Afghans for $46.5 million, a spokeswoman for the military’s Defense Logistics Agency in Virginia said at the time.

Last month, around the time President Joe Biden announced that America was ending its “forever war,” Mir paid nearly $40,000 for a container packed with 70 tons of trashed equipment.

He’ll make money, he told The Associated Press, but it will be a fraction of what he could have made if they’d been left intact, even if they weren’t in working condition.

The vehicle parts would have been sold to the legions of auto repair shops across Afghanistan, he said. That can’t happen now. They’ve been reduced to mangled pieces of metal that Mir sells for a few thousand Afghanis.

Sadat, another junk dealer in Bagram who gave only one name, says other scrap yards around the country are crammed with ruined U.S. equipment.

“They left us nothing,” he said. “They don’t trust us. They have destroyed our country. They are giving us only destruction.”

The Western official familiar with the packing up process said U.S. forces face a dilemma: Hand off largely defunct but intact equipment and risk having it fall into hands of enemy forces, or trash them and anger Afghans.

To make his point, he recounted a story: Not so long ago, U.S. forces discovered two Humvees that had found their way into enemy hands. They had been refitted and packed with explosives. U.S. troops destroyed the vehicles, and the incident reinforced a policy of trashing equipment.

LINK: Video shows disabled American helicopters left behind

But Afghan scrap yard owners and dozens of others who sifted through the junk in the yards wondered what dangers could have been posed by a treadmill that was torn apart, the long lengths of fire hose that were cut to pieces, or the bags once used to create large sand-barrier walls with their powerful mesh fabric now sliced and useless.

Dozens of tents cut and sliced sat in piles on the floor. Nearby were fuel bags and gutted generators, tank tracks and gnarled metal that looked like the undercarriage of a vehicle.

“They destroyed our country and now they are giving us their garbage,” said gray-bearded Hajji Gul, another junk dealer. “What are we to do with this?”

Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed.


"Troops likely used thermate grenades, which burn at temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to destroy key components of the equipment," USA Today reports, citing a Pentagon official, while "some pieces of equipment were likely blown up" at the airport. "McKenzie stressed that the equipment would be of no use in combat," USA Today notes, "but they will likely be display by the Taliban as trophies of their decades-long fight to retake their country."

"The U.S. military removed planes, heavy weapons, and sophisticated military equipment as it began winding down its operations in Afghanistan in the spring," NPR reports. "But it couldn't take home 20 years of accumulated hardware and instead left much of it to the Afghan military" — and after the Afghan military collapsed over the summer, "the Taliban wasted no time in gloating over their new war booty," including billions of dollars in captured "aircraft, trucks, Humvees, artillery guns, and night-vision goggles."

The U.S.-supplied "rifles, plate carrier vests, and other infantry gear provide legitimate tactical value to the group's foot soldiers," The Washington Post reports, but "some of the captured equipment, like helicopters and attack planes, may be more useful for propaganda imagery than for everyday use." U.S. contractors maintained the Black Hawk helicopters, C-130 transport planes, and other aircraft that require expensive and hard-to-find parts, and the Taliban lacks the technical expertise to keep them airborne, even if they find pilots.

The Taliban were "significantly helpful" in enabling the U.S. and allied forces to airlift 122,000 people out of Kabul's airport in two weeks, McKenzie said, but they will have a hard time securing Kabul. When the Taliban swept through Afghanistan, freeing its fighters from prisons, it also swelled the ranks of ISIS-K to about 2,000 militants, he said. "Now they are going to be able to reap what they sowed."


By Julian E. Barnes and Farnaz Fassihi
Aug. 27, 2021

A controlled detonation by American forces that was heard throughout Kabul has destroyed Eagle Base, the final C.I.A. outpost outside the Kabul airport, U.S. officials said on Friday.

Blowing up the base was intended to ensure that any equipment or information left behind would not fall into the hands of the Taliban.

Eagle Base, first started early in the war at a former brick factory, had been used throughout the conflict. It grew from a small outpost to a sprawling center that was used to train the counterterrorism forces of Afghanistan’s intelligence agencies.

Those forces were some of the only ones to keep fighting as the government collapsed, according to current and former officials.

“They were an exceptional unit,” said Mick Mulroy, a former C.I.A. officer who served in Afghanistan. “They were one of the primary means the Afghan government has used to keep the Taliban at bay over the last 20 years. They were the last ones fighting, and they took heavy casualties.”

Local Afghans knew little about the base. The compound was extremely secure and designed to be all but impossible to penetrate. Walls reaching 10 feet high surrounded the site, and a thick metal gate slid open and shut quickly to allow cars inside.

Once inside, cars still had to clear three outer security checkpoints where the vehicles would be searched and documents would be screened before being allowed inside the base.

In the early years of the war, a junior C.I.A. officer was put in charge of the Salt Pit, a detention site near Eagle Base. There the officer ordered a prisoner, Gul Rahman, stripped of his clothing and shackled to a wall. He died of hypothermia. A C.I.A. board recommended disciplinary action but was overruled.

A former C.I.A. contractor said that leveling the base would have been no easy task. In addition to burning documents and crushing hard drives, sensitive equipment needed to be destroyed so it did not fall into the hands of the Taliban. Eagle Base, the former contractor said, was not like an embassy where documents could be quickly burned.

The base’s destruction had been planned and was not related to the huge explosion at the airport that killed an estimated 170 Afghans and 13 American service members. But the detonation, hours after the airport attack, alarmed many people in Kabul, who feared that it was another terrorist bombing.

The official American mission in Afghanistan to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies is set to end next Tuesday. The Taliban have said that the evacuation effort must not be prolonged, and Biden administration officials say that continuing past that date would significantly increase the risks to both Afghans and U.S. troops.

Julian E. Barnes is a national security reporter based in Washington, covering the intelligence agencies. Before joining The Times in 2018, he wrote about security matters for The Wall Street Journal. @julianbarnesFacebook

Farnaz Fassihi is a reporter for The New York Times based in New York. Previously she was a senior writer and war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal for 17 years based in the Middle East. @farnazfassihi

Monday, August 30, 2021

Last U.S. military flight leaves Afghanistan, abandoned equipment destroyed


The longest war in U.S. history has come to an end with the departure of the last American military flight out of Afghanistan almost 20 years after troops first arrived in the country.

American planes took off from the Kabul airport shortly before midnight local time, U.S. Central Command head Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters on Tuesday.

The last C-17 left the Hamid Karzai International Airport at 3:29 p.m. ET and cleared Afghanistan's airspace just under the Biden administration’s Aug. 31 deadline to remove all U.S. forces from the country, McKenzie said.

"I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the mission to evacuate American citizens, third-country nationals and vulnerable Afghans," McKenzie said.

"Every single U.S. service member is now out of Afghanistan," he later added.

McKenzie could not say how many people were aboard the aircraft or where it was headed, as it is still in flight, but he confirmed that 82nd Airborne Division head Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue and Ambassador Ross Wilson were on board and “were in fact the last people to stand on the ground, step on the airplane.”

The flight also carried the last remaining U.S. troops and the core diplomatic staff of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

But there are still several hundred Americans in Afghanistan who were unable to reach the airport, along with thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military during the war effort.

McKenzie said no American civilians were on the last five flights to leave.

“We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out. That activity ended probably about 12 hours before our exit. ...  None of them made it to the airport,” he added. 

But he maintained that even if the Biden administration had extended the deadline, “we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out and there still would’ve been people who would’ve been disappointed with that. It’s a tough situation.”

McKenzie also said the United States will continue the diplomatic evacuation mission to recover those Americans and vulnerable Afghans.

“I want to emphasize again that simply because we have left that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan who want to leave and Afghans who want to leave. They will not be denied that opportunity,” McKenzie added.

McKenzie also said the United States will continue the diplomatic evacuation mission to recover those Americans and vulnerable Afghans.

“While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues,” he said.

“Tonight's withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. It's a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end, along with many of his al Qaeda co-conspirators," McKenzie added.

"And it was not a cheap mission. The cost was 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured. Sadly, that includes 13 service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today as we remember their heroic accomplishments,” he said.

McKenzie said the final days of the withdrawal, beginning from Aug. 14, was the “largest non-combatant evacuation” in the U.S. military’s history.

In those 18 days, American forces evacuated 79,000 civilians from the airport, including 6,000 Americans and more than 73,000 Special Immigrant Visa holders, consular staff, at-risk Afghans and their families, McKenzie said

Since the end of July, more than 123,000 civilians have been evacuated.

McKenzie laid out the final hours U.S. troops were in the country, noting that the military destroyed or removed remaining equipment.

Forces kept a counter rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) system in place “up until the very last minute” to protect against any rocket attacks before they “demilitarized those systems so that they’ll never be used again.”

In addition, troops made unusable up to 70 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, 27 Humvees and 73 aircraft.

McKenzie said the Taliban were “very pragmatic and very businesslike” during the withdrawal and that Donahue spoke to the Taliban commander before leaving to coordinate “but there was no discussion” of turning over the airfield. 

Updated at 6:01 p.m.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

UPDATE Breaking - explosions At Kabul airport death toll rises.


Washington — The Pentagon confirmed Thursday morning that an explosion occurred outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where the U.S. military has been working to evacuate scores of American citizens and at-risk Afghans from the country ahead of President Biden's August 31 deadline to complete the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Twitter that casualties from the blast are "unclear at this time," and the Defense Department "will provide additional details when we can."

A White House official told CBS News that Mr. Biden has been briefed on the explosion.

As the U.S. rushes to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped American troops during the 20-year war in Afghanistan, as well as those at risk from the Taliban, out of Kabul, Mr. Biden has warned of growing risk to American and allied forces on the ground with each day that passes.

The U.S. and Britain warned citizens not to go to Kabul's airport because of a terror threat outside the facility's gates. On Wednesday evening, the U.S. Embassy in the capital alerted U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and said those at three different gates "should leave immediately."

Mr. Biden spoke earlier this week of an ongoing threat posed by the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, ISIS Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. has evacuated 95,700 people out of Kabul since August 14, the White House said. Roughly 13,400 were flown out of the country on U.S. military and coalition flights during a 24-hour span beginning early Wednesday morning.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that 4,500 U.S. citizens and their immediate families have been shuttled out of Afghanistan in the last 10 days, and the State Department believes as many as 1,500 Americans are still in the country.

This is a developing situation, check back later for more details.


A bombing targeting the convoy of Afghanistan’s first vice president killed at least 10 people in the country’s capital, an indication of the high stakes in the U.S.-backed talks between Kabul and the Taliban to end nearly two decades of fighting.

A bomb placed in a wheelbarrow detonated near Amrullah Saleh’s convoy in Kabul early Wednesday, Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said. Mr. Saleh suffered minor injuries in an attack that also wounded more than 15 people, including several of his bodyguards, according to the ministry.

Hours after the bombing, Mr. Saleh appeared in a video message from his office with a bandage on his left hand.

“Our fight continues and I am in the service of people of Afghanistan,” he said.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Taliban quickly denied any involvement, but the Interior Ministry said the explosives were similar to ones used in previous attacks by the Haqqani wing of the insurgent group.

UPDATE: ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Kabul bombings,
 reports He says the many checkpoint that were in Kabul airport under the Afghan government's control have been eliminated, opening the door for chaos: "You can't depend on the Taliban to provide security"

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

WSJ: CIA, U.S. Troops Conduct Missions Outside Kabul Airport to Extract Americans, Afghan Allies


WASHINGTON—The Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military are conducting extraction operations to evacuate Americans using helicopters and ground troops as the window begins to close for rescuing all people at risk in Afghanistan.

The CIA has launched clandestine operations to rescue Americans in and outside Kabul in recent days, according to U.S. and other officials. The missions are using American military helicopters but under the control of the CIA, a typical arrangement in such operations.

A congressional source knowledgeable about the evacuation effort said U.S. troops had gone into Kabul on joint missions with other foreign allies, including Britain and France, to designated locations where they had picked up citizens from all those nations, U.S. green-card holders, and Afghans who hold special visas for helping the U.S. military.

The air and ground operations are considered perilous under the current circumstances in the country as the U.S. has begun to assign priority on evacuating Americans over Afghans who are at risk. Those include the many thousands of Afghan interpreters and others who worked for the U.S. government but remain inside the country and face retribution from the Taliban.

The Pentagon has said it is coordinating with the Taliban on airport security, but it’s unclear if those discussions also included extraction missions.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

UPDATED - LIVE VIDEO - Washington D.C. on lockdown - possible truck bomb threat.

WASHINGTON - Capitol police say they're conducting an active bomb threat and evacuating nearby buildings on Capitol Hill after a suspicious vehicle was identified near the Library of Congress.

The Associated Press says a possible explosive may have been located in the "suspicious vehicle."

Law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that investigators on the scene were working to determine whether the device was an operable explosive and whether the man in the truck was holding a detonator.

The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The following streets in the area have been closed:

- Independence Ave between 3rd St. SW to 2nd St SE

- Constitution Ave between 3rd St. NW and 2nd St. NE

- East Capitol NE between 1st St NE and 2nd St SE

Capitol police are asking people to avoid the area.

This is a developing news situation. 



Several governmental buildings in Washington, D.C., were evacuated Thursday morning due to what Capitol Police call "an active bomb threat investigation" after a man drove a pickup truck onto a sidewalk.

Law enforcement negotiators are working to make contact with the person in the vehicle, law enforcement sources told ABC News.

Negotiation is still ongoing to have a "peaceful resolution" and the suspect's motives were unknown, Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a press conference around noon local time.

The suspect told responding officers he had a bomb, and responding officers said he had what appeared to be a detonator in his hand, Manger said.

Authorities are also investigating a video posted to Facebook that purports to have been posted by the man in the vehicle.

The Cannon House Office Building, a congressional office building, was evacuated via underground routes. The Library of Congress and Supreme Court building were also evacuated. Both the Supreme Court and Congress are on recess.

Messages have been sent to congressional staffers asking that they "remain calm and relocate to Longworth House Office Building using the underground tunnels."

Senate staff were asked in a message to "remain clear of the police activity" and to "please move indoors" if they were outside on Capitol grounds.

The FBI said it's responding. The White House is monitoring the situation and is receiving updates from law enforcement, according to an administration official.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

UPDATE, 2:21 p.m.: A law enforcement source tells ABC News the Capitol bomb threat suspect has surrendered and is in police custody.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Afghanistan evacuation continues but US government can't guarantee a safe trip to the airport.

WASHINGTON (SBG) — The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued a warning Wednesday that it cannot guarantee safe passage to the airport, the only way to leave Afghanistan.

The security situation in Kabul continues to change quickly, including at the airport," the notice says.
The warning comes as the U.S. military continues to accelerate what has been a chaotic evacuation process after the Taliban swiftly took over the country.

It also comes after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the Taliban have agreed to allow “safe passage” from Afghanistan for civilians to get to the airport. There have been multiple reports of civilians being pushed back or turned away trying to get there over the last several days.

Asked about the warning at a briefing Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said she was not aware of any incidents where Americans were harassed or attacked going to the airport. She did concede there might be reports she wasn't aware of.

"The Taliban made a commitment to safe passage for American citizens," she said. "So far, it appears Americans have been able to get to the airport."

Meet the new Taliban - same as the old Taliban

Taliban fighters reportedly fired into a crowd and beat protesters in cities throughout Afghanistan on Wednesday, just days after the insurgent group took control of the country.

Al Jazeera reported that at least two people were killed and 12 others injured after shots were fired during a protest in Jalalabad.

Dozens of Afghans gathered in the city to raise the national flag before the country’s Independence Day, according to The Associated Press.

As Afghans tried to lower the Taliban flag, which was raised after the insurgent group took over the region, fighters started firing shots in the air and attacking the Afghans with batons in an effort to disperse the crowd, the AP reported, citing video footage.

A television cameraman who tried to document the violence was also reportedly beaten by the insurgent group's fighters.

Fighters with the insurgent group have been patrolling the streets in Kabul, at times coming into contact with hundreds of Afghan protesters, The New York Times noted.

Despite the risks involved with demonstrating, protesters have been whistling, shouting and waving large Afghan flags in the streets, prompting Taliban forces to try to dissolve the crowds by firing shots into the air, according to the Times, which cited video aired by local news media outlets.

When those tactics did not work, however, the fighters reportedly resorted to force.

That violence was also seen at checkpoints in Kabul and near the local airport as the U.S. and other countries were operating evacuation flights from the region, according to The Washington Post.

The Post reported that some Afghans who sought to leave the country on evacuation flights were unable to do so because they came into contact with the Taliban at checkpoints.

The insurgent group's fighters reportedly beat a number of Afghans who tried to cross and intimidated others against fleeing the country, according to the newspaper, which cited other outlets' reports and an eyewitness account.

In another instance, a former interpreter who worked for the Australian army was reportedly shot in the leg by a Taliban fighter, according to SBS News.

The news of violence between the Taliban and Afghans comes just days after the insurgent group seized Kabul and entered the presidential palace in a relatively peaceful manner, effectively toppling the Afghan government and taking control of the country.

There were not many reports of clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces as the insurgent group seized control on Sunday.

“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the longtime top spokesperson for the Taliban, said during a news conference on Tuesday, according to the Times.

“From today onward, war is over,” he added.

The current developments in the region, however, are putting those statements to the test.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that the Taliban “informed” the U.S. that they “are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment.”

He later said the U.S. has been “working, engaging, coordinating with Taliban elements on the ground to ensure safe passage.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Americans left behind in Afghanistan cling to hope

Congressional offices and outside advocacy groups are fielding a flood of frantic calls from American citizens and foreign allies desperate to escape from Afghanistan amid unfolding chaos there.

On Sunday, staffers from Sen. Tom Cotton’s office set up a hotline for Americans stranded in Afghanistan who have not yet been able to receive any clear communication from State Department officials or other government resources.

In less than 24 hours, several hundred individuals had contacted the line, including a number of Americans trapped behind Taliban lines.

“The situation is dire, but we’ll do everything in our power to help keep you informed and to help get you out,” Cotton, R-Ark. and an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Staffers said they do not have any special inside information on evacuations or State Department planning, but have been able to consolidate contact information and streamline communications with appropriate officials on the ground.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., offered similar assistance through his office.

For many panicked individuals there, that’s an improvement over the current lack of information.

State Department officials have set up their own hotline at 1-888-407-4747 for domestic calls and 1-202-501-4444 for overseas calls, as well as a Repatriation Assistance Request form for individuals seeking emergency flights out of Afghanistan.

But because of a crush of requests, officials have not been able to respond to every inquiry, leaving many confused as to whether they are awaiting further instructions or caught outside the system.

Do not call the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for details or updates about the flight,” the department’s official advisory states. “Do not travel to the airport until you have been informed by email that departure options exist.”

Officials from No One Left Behind — which for years has advocated for better policies regarding immigration and assistance for Afghan nationals who helped U.S. military forces — said on Monday that they spent most of the weekend fielding calls from veterans trying to help former interpreters get on one of the last few American flights out of Afghanistan.

“State and [International Organization for Migration] aren’t returning calls,” group officials wrote on social media. “We are working as fast as possible to answer all communications. You are not alone.”

Russian transport aircraft Il-112V crashes near Moscow, killing all three people on board

A prototype of a Russian military transport plane has crashed just outside Moscow, killing all three people on board, media reported on Tuesday. The Ilyushin Il-112V aircraft was undergoing a test flight to the Kubinka air base.

The incident has been reported by the plane’s developer United Aircraft Corporation, which has not confirmed the fatalities so far.

According to a source for TASS, there were three people on board, including Honored Test pilot Nikolay Kuimov, who holds the status of Hero of Russia. Before the plane crashed, the aircraft’s right engine went on fire, causing the Il-112V to tilt to the right side. The aircraft began to lose speed before flipping over and falling to the ground, the news agency reports.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Photos? USAF C-17 saves 800 fleeing from Taliban

 The first (UN VERIFIED) photos are surfacing from inside A USAF C-17 callsign RCH 871 packed bulkhead to bulkhead with Afghans fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. The flight left Kabul last night.  

Posted on Twitter  the authenticity of this photos have not been verified. 

click to enlarge 

Kabul in chaos as Taliban move in...

KABUL, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban seized the capital, prompting the U.S. military to suspend evacuations as the United States came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.

Crowds converged on the airport seeking to escape, including some clinging to a U.S. military transport plane as it taxied on the runway, according to footage posted by a media company.

U.S. troops fired in the air to deter people trying to force their way on to a military flight evacuating U.S diplomats and embassy staff, a U.S. official said.

Five people were reported killed in chaos at the airport on Monday, although a witness said it was unclear if they had been shot or killed in a stampede. A U.S. official told Reuters two gunmen had been killed by U.S. forces there over the past 24 hours.

The Taliban's rapid conquest of Kabul follows U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. forces after 20 years of war that cost billions of dollars.

The speed at which Afghan cities fell in just days and fear of a Taliban crackdown on freedom of speech and women's rights gained over 20 years have sparked criticism.

Biden, who said Afghan forces had to fight back against the Islamist Taliban, was due to speak on Afghanistan at 1945 GMT.

Five people were reported killed in chaos at the airport on Monday, although a witness said it was unclear if they had been shot or killed in a stampede. A U.S. official told Reuters two gunmen had been killed by U.S. forces there over the past 24 hours.

The Taliban's rapid conquest of Kabul follows U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. forces after 20 years of war that cost billions of dollars.

The speed at which Afghan cities fell in just days and fear of a Taliban crackdown on freedom of speech and women's rights gained over 20 years have sparked criticism.

Biden, who said Afghan forces had to fight back against the Islamist Taliban, was due to speak on Afghanistan at 1945 GMT.


Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered Kabul virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

The United States and other foreign powers have rushed to fly out diplomatic and other staff but the United States temporarily halted all evacuation flights to clear people from the airfield, a U.S. defense official told Reuters.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban, said in a message on Twitter that their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.

"Life, property and honour of no one shall be harmed but must be protected by the Mujahideen," he said.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the whole country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

U.S. officers had long worried that corruption would undermine the resolve of badly paid, ill-fed and erratically supplied front-line soldiers.

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of fighters.

Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban's political office, told Al Jazeera TV the form of Afghanistan's new government would be made clear soon. He said the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and called for peaceful international relations.

The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women's rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.

But many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as public stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.

"Everyone is worried," a former government employee now in hiding in Kabul said. "They're not targeting people yet but they will, that's the reality. Maybe in two or three weeks, that's why people are fighting to get out now."

Both the United Nations and the United States said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.

Civilians accused foreign governments of “abandoning” Afghanistan on Monday as at least five people were killed scrambling to flee Kabul after the Taliban declared victory in the country.

Videos circulated online showed people falling from the sky as civilians clung to planes in desperate attempts to leave the capital ahead of the anticipated return to a brutal regime.

One video posted by Twitter account AEROSINT Division PSF showed Afghan citizens swarming a US Air Force plane taxiing on the Kabul tarmac. Another showed bodies falling from a plane that had already taken off.

“I can’t believe the world abandoned Afghanistan,” one woman told the ANI news agency upon arrival in New Dehli after fleeing Kabul. 

“Our sons are going to get killed. They’re going to kill us. Our women are not going to have any more rights,” she added.

As tensions escalate, US soldiers shot and killed two people at the airport on Monday after they opened fire on troops stationed there to assist evacuations.

All flights from the airport, which is currently under the control of the US military, were later halted “out of an abundance of caution”. A Pentagon spokesperson said US forces are working with Turkish and other international troops to clear the airport and allow evacuation flights to resume.

Afghan civilians expressed fury at the US focus on evacuating its own citizens, warning that it would leave the local population at the mercy of the insurgents.

There were reports that US troops fired gunshots into the air on Monday morning to disperse surging crowds at the civilian portion of Kabul airport. 

A warning boomed over the airport radio in Pashto: “Please go back, please go back.”

CNN reports that US forces shot and killed two armed men at the airport on Monday, in what is described as an isolated incident. The Pentagon did not clarify whether the men were Taliban militants.

The US embassy issued an alert that the situation at the airport was fast deteriorating, with political commentators comparing the scene to Saigon – when the Viet Cong captured the Vietnamese city in 1975. 

An emergency Nato evacuation operation involving 6,000 US marines and 600 British troops is still underway. 

Smoke rose from the American compound in Afghanistan on Sunday as staff burnt sensitive documents and the US flag was lowered and removed.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Taliban seize Kandhar - control half of Afghanistan

WGAL: The Taliban have seized Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, and a number of other provincial capitals, as the insurgent group accelerates its rapid advance towards the capital Kabul.

Afghan Member of Parliament Gul Ahmad Kamin told CNN on Friday that Kandahar had been taken. The city, which lies in the south of the country, has been besieged by the Taliban for weeks, and many observers consider its fall as the beginning of the end for the country's U.S.-backed government.

Later on Friday the militants took charge of a handful of other cities. According to CNN analysis they now control 17 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals, all of which have been captured in the last week.

The group has made territorial gains in the north of the country, which has traditionally been an anti-Taliban stronghold. And it now controls towns and territories within 62 miles of Kabul, including the capital of Logar province, which also fell on Friday.

In a statement Friday, the Taliban said they had taken control of the governor's office, police headquarters, as well as other key operational centers throughout the city of Kandahar. "Hundreds of weapons, vehicles and ammunition were seized," the Taliban statement said.

Kamin said he and many others had made their way to a military base close to the city's international airport and were awaiting a flight out. "Many (government) soldiers surrendered and the rest fled," Kamin said.

Kamin had earlier told CNN that Taliban fighters had been able to break through the city's frontline and were engaging in sporadic confrontation with government forces.

Kandahar, which lies on the junction of three major highways, is of particular strategic importance and was formerly a major hub for U.S. military operations. Its seizure marks the most significant gain yet for the Taliban.

Elsewhere on Friday, the government lost control of the nearby capital of Urozgan province, Tarin Kot.

A local journalist told CNN that the governor's office, police headquarters and the central jail were now in the Taliban's hands. The journalist said the city had fallen to the Taliban without any fighting as tribal elders had decided not to resist their advance.

Afghan news network TOLO quoted the governor of Uruzgan, Mohammad Omar Shizad, as saying that after days of fighting around the city, the elders had urged him to cease fire because of the likely damage of further combat.

The vast majority of the Taliban's territorial gains have come since the withdrawal of American forces, which began in May and is scheduled to be completed by late August.

A senior administration official familiar with the most recent U.S. intelligence assessment on Afghanistan told CNN Wednesday that Kabul could fall into the hands of the Taliban within 30 to 90 days.

Taliban makes rapid gains

The city of Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city and a major urban center in western Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban on Thursday evening local time, with the group taking control of the governor's office and Herat police headquarters, according to Afghan officials.
'We should be concerned': Top US general in Afghanistan says about Taliban

The head of the Herat Provincial Council, Kamran Alizai, said Friday the whole city, except the army corps base, had been seized. Another provincial council member from Herat who did not want to be named said that the Taliban broke into the Herat prison, freeing a large number of inmates.

Qala-I-Naw city, the provincial capital of the northwest Badghis province also fell to the militant group on Thursday evening, a Badghis provincial council member confirmed to CNN.

The city of Ghazni, a key provincial capital on the road to Kabul, also fell to the militant group earlier on Thursday, after "long and intense fighting," according to Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni provincial council.

Ghazni lies around 93 miles south of Kabul, on a major highway connecting the capital with Kandahar.

With the capture of Ghazni, the Taliban is now in control of key locations both to the north and south of Kabul. Their earlier capture of areas of the Baghlan province, which lies to the north of Kabul, raised alarms among U.S. officials because the location is considered essential for the defense of the capital.


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