Today's D Brief: Afghanistan's uncertain new chapter; Tragedy at Kabul; Lives in limbo; Lingering Qs; And a bit more.

America’s war in Afghanistan is finally over. The victorious Taliban made the bold announcement Sunday once it had taken control of the capital city of Kabul, after now-former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country with an entourage of staff and aides. 

The U.S. military is now focused on protecting the evacuation process at Kabul’s airport, and more American troops are headed there today to help with that task, Reuters reports. Tolo News reports all commercial flights have been suspended; a bit on why that is down below.

The political reality inside Afghanistan is now clear for the world to see; but if you’d like a refresher, CNN’s notably brave Clarissa Ward filed this extraordinary six-minute report Monday morning. With the Taliban now in charge of Kabul, advertisements featuring photos of women are being painted over and “the streets were eerily quiet for a city of 5 million people usually jammed with traffic,” the Associated Press reports. More below the fold.


From Defense One

Taliban Take Presidential Palace as Kabul Falls With Americans, Afghans Still Trapped // By Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher: U.S. races yet another 1,000 troops to Kabul. Total force on ground to jump to 6,000 within days.

The US Spent $83 Billion Training Afghan Forces. Why Did They Collapse So Quickly? // By Tara Copp: The U.S. is rushing enough airpower to evacuate thousands as the Taliban advances on Kabul.

We Never Did What Was Necessary in Afghanistan // By Al Pessin: We lost. It's painful and infuriating, but a few more troops and a little more time would change nothing.

The Taliban Captured Helicopters. Can They Capture an Air Force? // By Marcus Weisgerber and Tara Copp: These are the lethal warplanes that could fall under Taliban control.

John Allen: Biden Must Reverse His Decision to Quit Afghanistan // By John R. Allen: The administration must act now. Here's what they must do.

How I Failed My Afghan Comrades // By Mike Jason: Military officers like me thought we were building a capable Afghan security force. What did we get wrong? Plenty.

Some Veterans Say Republicans are Blocking Their Ability to Vote // By Jacqueline Feldscher: Democrats and veterans groups say the bill would expand access to early and mail-in voting, which can make voting easier for disabled veterans.

Defense Business Brief // By Marcus Weisgerber: Questions loom about Lockheed Martin-Aerojet deal; New Skunkworks factory; Warren aide tapped for top Pentagon policy position, and more.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here


One big question for Afghans: How will the Taliban impose order, and how merciful will it be? It’s simply too soon to know since, according to AP, a Taliban spokesman insists the group’s fighters have been ordered to protect the “life, property and honor” of those it encounters in places like Kabul.
For everyone else, the fraudulence of America and NATO’s nation-building project has been laid bare. With the Taliban’s rapid advance through the country—an offensive that began in earnest this past May, but dramatically accelerated in the past two weeks—Ghani’s even more rapid exit laid bare at least a full decade’s worth of Western officials’ delusions about Afghanistan, about “turning a corner,” about kindred feelings toward the administration in Kabul, and terribly misguided assessments when it comes to reading local support for the Taliban insurgency and communicating that support to the American people and to the rest of world.
One window into the wider tragedy: Dozens, if not hundreds, of Afghans ran alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 exiting the country on Sunday. Video of this scene (here and here, e.g.) is apt to cement America’s legacy in the country perhaps more than any other images that have emerged from the “graveyard of empires” since the intervention began in October 2001.
Another sad window into how quickly developments unfolded: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul posted an opening for a full-time “public engagement assistant,” and the post opened to the public on August 7. That day happened to have been the same one that the same embassy warned Americans to leave the country “immediately.” Task & Purpose noticed this one, and wrote a bit more about it here.
Now what? The Taliban say they’ll hold a press conference today. Beyond that, what will U.S. President Joe Biden say to soothe the panicked writers and pundits, even if many Americans seem fairly indifferent toward what’s happening in Kabul? More urgently, can Biden say anything of any use to the thousands of Afghans and their family members as they crowd the airport and try to drive out of the country, somewhere, somehow? Will other nations (like China with an eye on Taiwan, e.g., or Russia eyeing separatists near annexed lands like Georgia and Ukraine) try to take advantage of the terrible optics of America’s 21st century Saigon and attempt a land grab? None of those seem likely; but then again, the White House predicted Kabul wouldn’t fall for several months still.

  • UPDATE: President Biden will speak Monday afternoon at around 3:45 p.m. ET, the White House announced shortly before we hit send on this newsletter today. 

Looking ahead, it is possible that U.S. officials will think differently about prolonged future military interventions. But as someone who spent time in rural Afghanistan and inside the cogs of the U.S. military’s messaging machine, at least one of your D Brief-ers is not so optimistic about the lessons U.S. leaders and elected officials will truly absorb from this all-too-natural end to America’s 20-year attempt to build a local military in Afghanistan.

In non-Afghanistan news: Two Fort Hood-based soldiers were arrested off base in early August for trying to pay someone they thought was a teenage girl for sex, Army Times reports. The warrant officer and sergeant first class, both assigned to 1st Cavalry Division, “engaged in sexual conversation with a person believed to be a fifteen or sixteen year old female and agreed to meet this person to engage in sexual acts for a fee,” according to a statement from the sheriff’s office in Bell County, Texas. A bit more, here.

And stay tuned to Defense One as these historic developments continue to unfold halfway around the world.

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