The rapid collapse of Afghanistan’s government to the Taliban fueled fears of a humanitarian disaster, sparked a political crisis for President Joe Biden and caused scenes of desperation at Kabul’s airport.
It’s also raised questions about what happened to more than $1 trillion the U.S. spent trying to bring peace and stability to a country wracked by decades of war and tried and rebuild the country. All efforts to prop up Afghanistan on multiple platforms have failed.
While most of that money went to the U.S. military, billions of dollars got wasted along the way, in some cases aggravating efforts to build ties with the Afghan people Americans meant to be helping.
US troops may stay in Afghanistan past an August 31 deadline to evacuate Americans, President Joe Biden said on Wednesday, and the Pentagon said the US military does not currently have the ability to reach people beyond the Kabul airport.
“If there`s American citizens left, we`re going to stay until we get them all out,” Biden told ABC News in an interview conducted on a day many US lawmakers pressed him to extend the deadline that he had set for a final pullout.
Biden has come under fierce criticism for his handling of the withdrawal, which in recent days has been dominated by scenes of chaos in and around the Kabul airport with people desperately trying to get out of the country. However, Biden defended his decisions, saying problems were inevitable in ending the 20-year US involvement there.
He also said the Taliban is cooperating for now in helping get Americans out of the country but “we`re having some more difficulty” in evacuating US-aligned Afghan citizens.
The speed with which Taliban forces retook Afghanistan, as US and other foreign forces withdrew, has led to chaotic scenes at the airport with diplomats, foreign citizens and Afghans trying to flee but they are being impeded by crowds and Taliban checkpoints.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris discussed ways to accelerate evacuations of Americans and refugees from Afghanistan with his national security team on Wednesday, a White House official said.
The scene at Kabul airport was one of complete chaos. Pictures of a giant C-17 military transport aircraft belonging to the US Air Force taxiing down the runway with thousands of ordinary Afghans running alongside, as if trying to board a departing bus, has been played in a loop across TV channels in India and across the world.
A Reuters report quoted an unnamed US defence official as saying, “Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90”.
A report states, India will now have to worry about the situation in Afghanistan on two counts. The first is the fate of the huge investments that the government has made in that country. The second is the probability of the ISI diverting some Islamic militants from the war in Afghanistan to fuel chaos in Kashmir and other parts of India.
The Indian government has poured an estimated $15 billion on humanitarian and development projects in each of the country’s 34 provinces. The largest of these is the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, formerly Salma Dam, a hydroelectric and irrigation dam project located on the Hari River in Chishti Sharif District of Herat Province in western Afghanistan. The fate of all these projects, which even the Taliban has acknowledged as being beneficial to the Afghan people, how hangs in balance.