Western media outlets have been forthright when reporting the rapid seizure of Kabul by Taliban militants who managed to occupy almost the whole of Afghanistan before entering the capital.
On 6 August, the insurgents took Lashkargah, the administrative centre of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, and ten days later, they captured Kabul. Earlier, a US intelligence assessment suggested that the Afghan government could collapse about six months after the US troop withdrawal.
Afghan Taliban militants and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal and their victory in the Afghan conflict on US in Afghanistan, in Alingar district of Laghman Province on March 2, 2020
The militants’ offensive came against the backdrop of US and NATO troops withdrawing from Afghanistan, in line with a peace deal between the Trump administration and the Taliban in early 2020.
Most western media outlets reacted to Sunday’s events by publishing articles with catchy headlines that focused on the collapse of the Afghan government, President Ashraf Ghani’s resignation, and the insurgents entering his residence.
The Washington Post writes in its editorial that “the takeover of the sprawling capital city had been years in the making, but was ultimately accomplished in a single day”.
The newspaper was echoed by The New York Times (NYT) which claimed that “Kabul’s sudden fall to the Taliban ends US era in Afghanistan”.
The NYT referred to “the speed and violence of the Taliban sweep through the countryside and cities the previous week”, which the newspaper said had “caught the American military and government flat-footed”.
The newspaper argued that Joe Biden “will go down in history as the [US] president who presided over a humiliating final act in a long and bedeviled American chapter in Afghanistan”.
The same tone was struck by Politico which published an editorial titled: “Taliban seize power amid chaos in Afghanistan”.
“No official or intelligence assessment expected the Taliban to sweep across Afghanistan in a matter of days, though most said the militants would assuredly take control of the country after US and NATO troops departed the country”, the article pointed out.
This feeling was shared by the Financial Times (FT), which underlined that the Taliban entering Kabul “was the culmination of a dramatic week-long lightning offensive in which the Islamist fighters seized control over most of the country, often facing little armed resistance, in an astonishing reordering of Afghanistan’s political map”.
The newspaper cited unnamed sources as claiming that despite the Taliban’s week-long offensive having led to “less bloodshed than the extent of their territorial gains might suggest”, Afghanistan is “heading towards a civil war” given the country’s “diverse mix of rival ethnic groups and fierce community rivalries”.
The Financial Times also quoted Sara Wahedi, a former Afghan government official who runs a security app for Kabul residents, as saying on her Twitter page that “this is the end of Afghanistan as a nation” and that “no one will be able to lead the entire country”.
Some, however, insisted that Afghanistan’s “most battle-hardened military leaders had tactically retreated” in a bid to regroup and launch “insurgencies”, according to the newspaper.
Many western media platforms specifically centered on the dramatic events at the Kabul Airport, which, as The Times noted remained the lone avenue out of the country not under the Taliban’s control.
The NYT, for its part, reported that lots of Afghans “wept as they begged airline workers to put their families on outbound commercial flights even as most were grounded in favour of military aircraft”.
The Washington Times mentioned footage of “rifle-toting Taliban fighters occupying the presidential palace and rolling up the Afghan national flag”, which the newspaper claimed “stood as a defining image of a failed US effort to transform Afghan society at the cost of a trillion dollars and thousands of lives lost”.
The newspaper also reported a desperate reaction by Sahraa Karimi, the head of the company Afghan Film, who was filming herself as “she fled on foot, out of breath” and clutching at her head scarf and shouting at others to escape.
“Greetings, the Taliban have reached the city. We are escaping”, she wrote in a post on her Facebook account.
The Washington Times also mocked Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s interview with ABC News, in which he said “this is manifestly not Saigon” when asked about possible parallels to America’s hasty departure from Vietnam in 1975.
“But the frenzied rush to the exits exuded anything but the calm and orderly withdrawal the [US] administration had promised”, the newspaper underscored.
On Sunday, the Taliban entered Kabul to negotiate a “peaceful transfer of power” with the government of President Ashraf Ghani, who then stepped down and left Afghanistan. Ghani said his decision was dictated by the desire to prevent violence as the Taliban was poised to conduct an attack on the capital.
Over the past several weeks, the situation in Afghanistan had drastically deteriorated as the terrorists overran major cities and provinces. Violence dramatically increased in Afghanistan after the US and its allies started to pull out troops from the country. Late last week, US President Joe Biden authorised the deployment of up to 5,000 US troops in Afghanistan to ensure a safe evacuation of US diplomatic personnel.