David Loyn David Loyn

Afghanistan, one year on

Taliban fighters celebrating the fall of Kabul in August 2021. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

Afghan women’s meetings on Zoom with their supporters outside the country often now end in tears as the stories of Taliban rule are too hard to bear. One prominent regional woman’s leader was beaten by her own younger brother. He said she could not go out on her own without a male relative and needed to cover more of her face and head. ‘I brought him up as if I was his mother,’ she said in shock and humiliation. This is self-policing of a society in fear.

It is a year since President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, telling no one and precipitating the swift collapse of his government. Speaking for the first time on the circumstances of the fall, General Sami Sadat, who was put in charge of the defences of Kabul in the last days before the collapse, said that on 15 August he drove to the presidential palace to see for himself when he was told the president had gone. On his way back to his base he called the head of the Air Force, General Fahim, ordering every aircraft into the air to prevent the Taliban coming into the city. Fahim said to him ‘Commander, we don’t have any aircraft.’ Sadat said ‘What do you mean?’ Fahim said ‘They have all flown to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.’ The pilots saved their own lives and kept their planes out of the hands of the Taliban. That is when it became clear to Sadat that it was all over.

But for former Afghan commanders like him America’s betrayal began more than a year earlier when the Taliban were legitimised by the Doha deal. His American advisers then cut the supplies of ammunition available and told him to stop offensives against the Taliban, to ‘give peace a chance.’ American maintenance and other vital support went even before American troops pulled out in August.

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