The Irish Times view on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan: the Taliban’s opportunity

The US military’s departure leaves the battered country precariously teetering on the edge of a Taliban takeover

US Marines in 2009 sweep the road for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) in Garmsir district of Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Photograph: Manpreet Romana/ AFP via Getty Images

US Marines in 2009 sweep the road for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) in Garmsir district of Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Photograph: Manpreet Romana/ AFP via Getty Images

 

The definitive closure of Bagram Air Base, the nerve centre of 20 years of American military operations in Afghanistan, marks in a real sense the finality of US withdrawal from the country.

It is the end of a campaign by international allies that has left the battered country precariously teetering on the edge of a Taliban takeover, which intelligence agencies reportedly believe could occur within six months.

Fewer than 1,000 US troops are still in the country, mostly in the capital, Kabul, protecting the huge US embassy and liaising with the government and national army. Today the city resembles Saigon after the US left Vietnam, nervously awaiting inevitable overrun. Government passport offices are overwhelmed, humanitarian groups are pulling out expats, contractors are leaving, and those who worked with the US anxiously wait for word they too will be shipped out.

In the provinces since May the resurgent Taliban has steadily expanded its footprint, particularly in the north, where a quarter of districts are now fully under its control.

The delusion of security provided by the Americans, whose determination to leave was never fully believed by Afghan leaders, has left a woefully weak government

In some provinces, almost all the areas beyond city limits have fallen and government supporters fear a push on provincial capitals. Government forces are surrendering without a fight while there are reports that over 1,000 have fled across the border to Tajikistan.

Locals say that the Taliban’s brutal enforcement of sharia law is back with a vengeance – beatings, amputations, floggings and executions, while women now must again wear the all-enveloping burqa and cannot work or leave their home for any reason without a male “guardian”. Shopkeepers are ordered not to serve women out alone, and Taliban beat unaccompanied women.

The delusion of security provided by the Americans, whose determination to leave was never fully believed by Afghan leaders, has left a woefully weak government and a conventional army barely able to confront the more flexible and nimble guerrilla Taliban. The US war may be over, but Afghanistan’s is most certainly not.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.