KABUL, Afghanistan (KRON) — Just two weeks before the United States was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a 20-year war, the Taliban have once again seized power in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, a militant group that ran Afghanistan in the late 1990s, have taken over all major cities in a matter of days and forced thousands of people to storm airports and the border in an effort to try to flee the country.
This is a result of the U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan, which was originally a Trump administration plan but was carried out by the Biden Administration, who subsequently set Aug. 31 as the exit date.
Afghanistan’s national army and police forces, numbering about 350,000 men, were supposed to be a powerful deterrent to the Taliban. They combined ground operations with air power and used aircraft to resupply outposts and collect intelligence.
But with Biden’s withdrawal plan, the U.S. pulled its air support, intelligence and contractors servicing Afghanistan’s planes and helicopter. This on top of the failure by the government to pay many Afghan soldiers and police officers for months, while the soldiers were sent to the front without adequate food and water, the New York Times reported.
Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president, joined his fellow citizens and left the country and is reportedly in the United Arab Emirates.
With all of this happening, the Taliban quickly expanded their footprint in recent weeks and took control far more quickly than anyone really expected, including President Biden and Pentagon officials.
The Pentagon had issued dire warnings to Biden even before he took office about the potential for the Taliban to overrun the Afghan army, but estimated it might happen in 18 months — not weeks.
Nonetheless, Biden said he stands “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the country.
Biden said he was faced with a choice between sticking to a previously negotiated agreement to withdraw U.S. troops this year or sending thousands more service members back into Afghanistan for a “third decade” of war.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said in a televised address to the nation from the White House East Room. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.”
Photos and videos circulating online show hundreds of desperate Afghans crammed aboard a U.S. C-17 cargo plane as it left Kabul’s international airport on Sunday.
At the airport, some were so desperate to escape the Taliban capture of their country that they held onto an American military jet as it took off and plunged to death in chaos that killed at least seven people, U.S. officials said.
Videos show several falling through the air as the airplane rapidly gained altitude over the city.
So, why are people so desperate to flee? There are a couple reasons.
They’re worried the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against those who worked with Americans or the government.
Many also fear the Taliban will encourage Islamist movements that they relied on when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
During that time, women were not allowed to go to school or work outside their home. They also had to wear the burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside.
The Taliban banned music, stoned adulterers and in some cases executed civilians living under their regime.
And of the nearly 250,000 Afghans that have fled their homes since the end of May — 80% of those displaced are women and children, according to the United Nations.
For women in Afghanistan, the Taliban takeover puts their rights — and lives — at stake.
A report released from the U.N. shows the number of women and children killed and injured increased in May and June.
Since taking over, the Taliban have said they are taking a more moderate approach and promised to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought against them and prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terror attacks.
But many Afghans are skeptical of those promises, and the violent response from a protest Wednesday only fueled their fears.
One person was killed and six were injured when the Taliban violently dispersed a protest in the eastern city of Jalalabad, an Afghan health official said.
Dozens of people raised the national flag and lowered the Taliban’s own flag the day before Afghanistan’s Independence Day. That’s when the Taliban opened fire and beat people with batons.
President Biden’s administration has reportedly been holding secret talks with countries in a desperate attempt to house at-risk Afghans.
So far, about 1,200 Afghans have been evacuated to the U.S. and the number is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
A deal to house about 8,000 Afghans in Qatar has been close for weeks, but a formal agreement hasn’t been announced.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said it’s the United States’ “moral obligation” to help refugees safely leave Afghanistan.
“We must immediately welcome them to the U.S. and provide real support as they rebuild their lives,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, public figures like conservative TV host Laura Ingraham aren’t ready to welcome refugees with welcome arms.
“Is it really our responsibility to welcome thousands of potentially un-vetted refugees from Afghanistan?” Ingraham said on Fox News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.