Afghanistan Is Back Where It Was: US General

A year after withdrawal, assessments of the fallout differ
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2022 5:05 PM CDT
Americans, Afghans Assess Withdrawal a Year Later
Passengers walk to the departures terminal of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug 14, 2021, passing a mural of President Ashraf Ghani.   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

(Newser) – One year ago, the Taliban took control of the government in Afghanistan. The anniversary has sparked assessments and reassessments of the fallout from the withdrawal of US troops, from Afghans as well as Americans. And the Biden administration is preparing to answer them. The latest are from:

  • Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane: The fact that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was in Kabul when the US killed him shows that the Taliban is again providing sanctuary to terrorists," Keane said on Fox News Sunday. "The very reason we went there, the very reason we stayed there for 20 years, [was] to ensure that terrorists did not rise again, attack the American people," he said, per the Hill. "And we're right back where we started." The terrorist was killed by a US drone strike two weeks ago in the capital.
  • US intelligence: A fresh review by US agencies has found that, on the contrary, al-Qaeda "has not reconstituted its presence in Afghanistan" since the withdrawal. Analysts say Zawahri was the only key al-Qaeda leader who tried to resurface after US forces left. Overall, the assessment says, fewer than a dozen of the terrorist organization's "core members" are still in Afghanistan, reports CNN, whose reporters have seen the summary. Those terrorists probably already were in Kabul when the Taliban took over, the agencies said. That doesn't mean new attacks couldn't originate in Afghanistan, however. The organization "has several affiliates we believe it would call upon outside the region to drive potential plots," the assessment says.
  • The Biden administration: White House officials have had a memo drawn up by a National Security Council aide to counter Republican criticism. The document argues the withdrawal freed military and intelligence agents of the mission, which strengthened national security overall, per Axios. The memo, intended for congressional Democrats, also says intelligence agencies said still more US troops would be needed to keep the situation in Afghanistan from worsening, which President Biden wouldn't agree to. Republicans say the government fell so quickly to the Taliban because of the administration's lack of planning.
  • Ashraf Ghani: The nation's former president defended his decision to flee Afghanistan last Aug. 15, saying Sunday on CNN that he wasn't fearful of being captured. "I did not want to give the Taliban and their supporters the pleasure of yet again humiliating an Afghan president and making him sign over the legitimacy of the government," he said, per the AP. “I have never been afraid." He also denied reports that he helicoptered away from the presidential palace with millions of dollars in cash. A report by a congressional watchdog last week said it would have been difficult to take that much cash on the flight. An inspector general's office said it remains possible that much US money disappeared from the palace, though it can't say how much or who took it.
  • Sima Samar: "It's a sad anniversary for the majority of people of my country," the rights activist told the AP, especially for women "who don't have enough food, who do not know what is the tomorrow for them." She left on a trip to the US in July 2021, not knowing the Taliban were about to seize control. The new rulers quickly announced that opponents who apologized for their actions would be forgiven. "I should be apologizing because I started schools for the people?" Samar said. "I should apologize because I started hospitals and clinics in Afghanistan?"
(Read more Afghanistan exit strategy stories.)

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