Mitch McConnel calls for US airstrikes against the Taliban as warlords move to within SEVEN miles of Kabul and prepare to isolate capital: Biden retreats to Camp David until Wednesday
- Mitch McConnel called for airstrikes against Afghan Taliban as warlords moved to within seven miles of Kabul
- The US must ‘hammer Taliban advances with air strikes, provide critical support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces defending the capital and prevent the seemingly imminent fall of the city’
- The Taliban has seized almost 60 percent of Afghanistan and is tightening its grip around Kabul
- The US Embassy has been ordered to destroy all sensitive material before the evacuation
- Biden has sent 3,000 troops in to help with the evacuation as Kabul gets surrounded
- A US official said two battalions of Marines and one infantry battalion will arrive in Kabul by Sunday evening
Sen. Mitch McConnel has called for US airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan as warlords moved to within seven miles of Kabul and prepare to isolate the capital – as President Joe Biden retreats to Camp David until Wednesday.
The Taliban seized two more provinces on Saturday and have now captured much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan while refugees flooded the capital and US Marines returned to oversee emergency evacuations of the US Embassy.
The Taliban have made major advances in recent days, including capturing Herat and Kandahar, which are the country’s second- and third-largest cities.
They now control 19 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed government in control of a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
After McConnell spoke to US Ambassador to Afghanistan Adela Raz, he said on Friday that ‘this debacle was not only foreseeable, it was foreseen.’
‘With that said, it is not too late to prevent the Taliban from overrunning Kabul,’ the Senate Minority leader said. ‘The Administration should move quickly to hammer Taliban advances with air strikes, provide critical support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) defending the capital and prevent the seemingly imminent fall of the city.
‘If they fail to do so, the security threat to the United States will assuredly grow and the humanitarian cost to innocent Afghans will be catastrophic.’
A Taliban fighter stands guard over surrendered Afghan security member forces in the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13
Refugees flooded the Kabul in recent days as the Taliban continues to circle the city
Taliban militants gather around after taking control of Lashlar Gah in Helmand on August 13. The Taliban now controls almost 60 percent of the country
The Afghan Taliban has moved within seven miles of Kabul
Taliban forces began reclaiming land they lost during the US’s 20-year occupation months before Biden announced his plans to withdraw troops by September 11.
Between May and June, the Taliban recaptured 50 of Afghanistan’s 421 districts, Deborah Lyons, the UN’s special envoy on Afghanistan, told Newsweek.
But the troop drawn down sped up the take over, and now the Taliban has a vice grip grip around the capital.
The US embassy staff were ordered to begin shredding and burning sensitive material, as units from a planned re-deployment of 3,000 American troops start arriving by Sunday evening to secure the airport and oversee the evacuations.
A state department spokesperson said it was ‘standard operating procedure’ to destroy sensitive material and logos for embassy drawdowns to avoid propaganda efforts.
An infantry brigade combat team will also move out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to act as a quick reaction force for security in Kabul if needed, the Pentagon has said.
Meanwhile, the president was on his way to Camp David in Maryland Friday but didn’t speak to reporters.
He’s been taking criticism home and abroad for pulling the troops out of the country.
Ata Mohammed Noor, an Afghan warlord and key US ally during the occupation, said the withdrawal was ‘irresponsible’ and the sudden exit weakened the Afghanistan military, which Noor said is not in a position to ward off insurgents, Newsweek reported.
He has since warned about a possible civil war.
Within the US, several Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have ripped Biden for this decision.
Friday night, McCarthy tweeted, ‘Tonight we held a call with Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the US to discuss the deteriorating situation. I remain deeply concerned with the Biden Admin’s mismanagement of their bungled withdrawal. Much like his failed withdrawal from Iraq, it is an embarrassment to our nation.’
Taliban fighters stand guard inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13
The Taliban has rapidly seized provinces in Afghanistan since the US left. They inciting violence and fear in the citizens of Kabul as they move closer to seizing the city
Biden continued to defend his decision to pull the troops out of Afghanistan.
on Tuesday, the commander-in-chief said the Afghan military is more powerful than the Taliban.
The Taliban standing on a roadside in Kandahar after taking over more parts of Afghanistan. The scale and speed of the Taliban advance has shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country
A host of European countries – including Britain, Germany, Denmark and Spain – all announced the withdrawal of personnel from their respective embassies on Friday.
For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge there in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of confusion and fear of what lies ahead.
‘We don’t know what is going on,’ one resident, Khairddin Logari, told AFP.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was ‘deeply disturbed’ by accounts of poor treatment of women in areas seized by the Taliban, who imposed an ultra-austere brand of Islam on Afghanistan during their 1996-2001 rule.
Taliban fighters are going door-to-door and forcibly marrying girls as young as 12 and forcing them into sex slavery as they seize vast swathes of the Afghanistan government forces.
Jihadist commanders have ordered imams in areas they have captured to bring them lists of unmarried women aged from 12 to 45 for their soldiers to marry because they view them as ‘qhanimat’ or ‘spoils of war’ – to be divided up among the victors.
Fighters have then been going door-to-door to claim their ‘prizes’, even looking through the wardrobes of families to establish the ages of girls before forcing them into a life of sexual servitude.
‘It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away,’ Guterres said.
The Taliban is also killing Afghan government troops who surrender, the US claimed.
A Taliban fighter looks on as he stands at the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan August 14
For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge there in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of confusion and fear of what lies ahead
Video taken in Faryab province last month did appear to show Taliban fighters massacring 22 Afghan commandos after they had surrendered, including the son of a well-known general.
Hundreds of government troops have surrendered to the Taliban since fighting escalated in May with the withdrawal of US troops – some without firing a shot, others after being cut off and surrounded with little or no chance of reinforcement or resupply from the government in Kabul.
The Taliban has now seized around two-thirds of the country from the government in a little over three months, with ten cities falling to the jihadists in the last week alone – while several others are on the verge of being captured.
The scale and speed of the Taliban advance has shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks nearly 20 years ago.
Days before a final US withdrawal ordered by President Joe Biden, individual soldiers, units and even whole divisions have surrendered — handing the insurgents even more vehicles and military hardware to fuel their lightning advance.
Despite the frantic evacuation efforts, the Biden administration continues to insist that a complete Taliban takeover is not inevitable.
‘Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday, while acknowledging that Taliban fighters were ‘trying to isolate’ the city.
Officials took pains to avoid describing the operation as an evacuation as they announced that the State Department would reduce its civilian footprint of 4000 people to a ‘core diplomatic presence.’
‘Our embassy remains open and our diplomatic mission will endure,’ said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday.
The moves triggered fresh questions about whether Biden had been right to announce a complete withdrawal, 20 years U.S. forces and allies ousted the Taliban from Kabul.
Officials insist they always had contingency plans to help American staff leave safely but critics said the result was chaos.
Even allies have expressed concern. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Trump administration had forged a ‘rotten deal’ with the Taliban that risked allowing terrorists to return.
‘I’ve been pretty blunt about it publicly and that’s quite a rare thing when it comes to United States decisions, but strategically it causes a lot of problems and as an international community, it’s very difficult for what we’re seeing today,’ he told Sky News.
The Taliban offensive has accelerated in recent days, with the capture of Herat in the north and, just hours later, the seizure of Kandahar – the group’s spiritual heartland in the south.
Kandahar resident Abdul Nafi told AFP the city was calm after government forces abandoned it for the sanctuary of military facilities outside, where they were negotiating terms of surrender.
‘I came out this morning, I saw Taliban white flags in most squares of the city,’ he said. ‘I thought it might be the first day of Eid.’
Eid is one of two celebrations in the Islamic faith.
Pro-Taliban social media accounts have boasted of the vast spoils of war captured by the insurgents – posting photos of armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and even a drone seized by their fighters at abandoned military bases.
The US Embassy in Kabul has been ordered to destroy sensitive materials as Biden sends in 3,000 troops to help evacuate
In Herat, the Taliban captured long-time strongman Ismail Khan, who helped lead the defense of the provincial capital along with his militia fighters.
Pul-e-Alam, capital of Loghar province, was the latest city to fall on Friday, putting the Taliban within striking distance of Kabul.
Helicopters flitted back and forth between Kabul’s airport and the sprawling US diplomatic compound in the heavily fortified Green Zone – 46 years after choppers evacuated Americans from Saigon, signaling the end of the Vietnam War.
The US-led evacuation is focused on thousands of people, including embassy employees, and Afghans and their families who fear retribution for working as interpreters or in other support roles for the United States.
Pentagon spokesman Kirby said that most of the troops shepherding the evacuation would be in place by Sunday and ‘will be able to move thousands per day’ out of Afghanistan.
‘Capacity is not going to be a problem,’ he said.
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