What is happening on the ground in Afghanistan? UPDATED August 29, 2021

See,

1) Carlotta Gall, “As the Taliban Tighten Their Grip, Fears of Retribution Grow; Taliban leaders have promised amnesty to Afghan officials and soldiers, but there are increasing reports of detentions, disappearances and even executions,” New York Times, August 29, 2021 (Updated 4:06 p.m. ET);

2) “What is happening on the ground in Afghanistan?” The Trenchant Observer, August 25, 2021.

Carlotta Gall, who reported for meny years from Afghanistan for the New York Times, reports today on the tenuous situation on the ground in Afghanistan under Taliban control. There have been reprisal killings. Key former security and intelligence officials fear for their lives. A well-organized commando force seized computer records at the national intelligence agency and the Ministry of Communications. Gall reports:

When Taliban troops seized control of the Afghan capital two weeks ago, the invading units made a beeline for two critical targets: the headquarters of the National Security Directorate and the Ministry of Communications.

Their aim — recounted by two Afghan officials who had been briefed separately on the raid — was to secure the files of Afghan intelligence officers and their informers, and to obtain the means of tracking the telephone numbers of Afghan citizens.

Moreover, the units that carried out these operations may have not been Taliban, but from Pakistani military intelligence:

The people who seized the files at the National Security Directorate and the Ministry of Communications may not have even been Taliban: The men did not speak Afghan languages, the officials said, and may have been agents of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency working in tandem with Taliban forces. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has long supported the Taliban in their violent opposition to the Kabul government.

What is apparent is that U.S. forces and Afghan officials did not destroy their records of who had worked with the Americans and allies, and who had acted as informants. Reprisals may not come immediately, but based on the past actions of the Taliban, they are likely to come.

With regards to Afghan leaders’ recent assurances and what is happening on the ground, Gall teports,

So far, the Taliban’s political leadership has presented a moderate face, promising amnesty to government security forces who lay down their arms, even writing letters of guarantee that they will not be pursued, although reserving the right to prosecute serious crimes. Spokesmen for the Taliban have also talked of forming an inclusive government.

A Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said in a Twitter post in English that there was no settling of scores, nor was there a hit list with which the Taliban were conducting door-to-door searches, as has been rumored.

“General amnesty has been granted,” he wrote, adding that “we are focusing on future.”

Yet there are growing reports of detentions, disappearances and even executions of officials at the hands of the Taliban, in what some current and former government officials describe as a covert and sometimes deadly pursuit of the Taliban’s enemies.

“It’s very much underground,” said one former legislator, who was in hiding elsewhere when the Taliban visited his home in the middle of the night.

“That is intimidation,” he said. “I feel threatened and my family is in shock.”

Leaving behind computer records that would enable the Taliban to identify who worketttd with the allies and acted as intelligence sources is inexcusable, as inexcusable as the American surrender and withdrawal which was not negotiated subject to any serious conditions.

The closer you look. the more shocking and scandalous the Biden administration’s decisions and actions related to the American withdrawal seem to be.

The American military’s record is definitely mixed. While they seem to have done an impressive job with their airlift out of Kabul airport, given a disastrous lack of planning, perhaps the most enduring image of the U.S. military’s performance was their departure from Bagram Air Base in the middle of the night, without even telling their erstwhile Afghan “partners” they were leaving.

While there is ample blame to be shared by others, particularly Joe Biden, Anthony Blinken, and Jake Sullivan, Lloyd Austin was Secretary of Defense and directly responsible for the military’s failings. If there is to be any accountability for this catastrophe. Austin should be fired–along with Blinken and Sullivan.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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