Hellish living conditions are the new Kabul reality [“Trash heaps throughout the city, feces on sidewalks… The once-modern capital of Afghanistan… has been plunged back into the Dark Ages, literally, as electricity is shut off at night”]

https://www.yahoo.com/news/hellish-living-conditions-kabul-reality-110000304.html

Hellish living conditions are the new Kabul reality

By Tori Richards

August 29, 2021

Trash heaps throughout the city, feces on sidewalks, and armed guards at every street corner to hand out beatings — welcome to the new Kabul.

The once-modern capital of Afghanistan with a growing middle class has been plunged back into the Dark Ages, literally, as electricity is shut off at night, plunging 4 million people into darkness. This is life under the Taliban after their takeover two weeks ago.

“They are trying to save the power. If it’s night, why do you need the power? It must be dark,” said Afghan security consultant Nasser Waziri, parroting the Taliban’s thinking. “There is a curfew at night. At nighttime, you cannot go out. On every corner is a Taliban person, giving an order to go back home.”

If lack of power isn’t bad enough, the population must now contend with slow or nonexistent internet service. Afghanistan is primarily a cash nation, and residents purchase monthly cards at a store for internet access. Cards are no longer available, and banks do not have any money available for people to purchase any, Waziri said, adding that the Taliban want it that way so nothing can be documented.

With the lack of money and international trade that has stopped, inflation is rampant. For example, a bag of rice has almost doubled, Waziri said. No trucks are delivering goods on the streets.

“Everybody is scared — who is going to import to a terror state?” Waziri said.

The takeover is a brutal reality for many who have grown up under the freedom of Western influence, especially women who must now wear a burqa and cannot go outside without a male family member.

Afghans cannot listen to music either, as that is banned by the Taliban’s version of Islam. The most brutal example is the murder of beloved Afghan folk singer Fawad Andarabi, who was shot in the head on his farm.

Waziri shared photographs with the Washington Examiner of welts on the shoulder and neck of a friend who made the mistake of walking down the street with a cell phone. A Taliban guard grabbed her phone to check whether any music was uploaded, and when he found some, he beat her.

“If you see Kabul now, it’s garbage. Everywhere is garbage,” Waziri said. “[The Taliban] are animals — they go to the bathroom on each side of the street, and the whole city is smelling. One guy put out a [portable] toilet, and he got beaten and had to remove that. The Taliban said, ‘We have to do this a natural way.’”

The condition of Kabul now is reminiscent of what American troops found in 2001 when they captured a city that had been destroyed from the 1979 Soviet invasion. The streets had been torn up and littered with garbage and sewage while the electrical grid and water system had to be rebuilt, said retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who served in Afghanistan.

“I close my eyes, and I can smell it, and I can see it — I know exactly what is going on there today,” he said. “It was nasty. It was a big health problem and humanitarian crisis.”

August 30, 2021. Tags: , , . Joe Biden. 1 comment.

Planes, guns, night-vision goggles: The Taliban’s new U.S.-made war chest

https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/planes-guns-night-vision-goggles-talibans-new-us-made-war-chest-2021-08-19/

Planes, guns, night-vision goggles: The Taliban’s new U.S.-made war chest

By Idrees Ali, Patricia Zengerle, and Jonathan Landay

August 19, 2021

WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) – About a month ago, Afghanistan’s ministry of defense posted on social media photographs of seven brand new helicopters arriving in Kabul delivered by the United States.

“They’ll continue to see a steady drumbeat of that kind of support, going forward,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters a few days later at the Pentagon.

In a matter of weeks, however, the Taliban had seized most of the country, as well as any weapons and equipment left behind by fleeing Afghan forces.

Video showed the advancing insurgents inspecting long lines of vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear and even military drones.

“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Current and former U.S. officials say there is concern those weapons could be used to kill civilians, be seized by other militant groups such as Islamic State to attack U.S.-interests in the region, or even potentially be handed over to adversaries including China and Russia.

President Joe Biden’s administration is so concerned about the weapons that it is considering a number of options to pursue.

The officials said launching airstrikes against the larger equipment, such as helicopters, has not been ruled out, but there is concern that would antagonize the Taliban at a time the United States’ main goal is evacuating people.

Another official said that while there are no definitive numbers yet, the current intelligence assessment was that the Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones.

“We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,” Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters in an email.

‘MORE LIKE TROPHIES’

The speed with which the Taliban swept across Afghanistan is reminiscent of Islamic State militants taking weapons from U.S.-supplied Iraqi forces who offered little resistance in 2014.

Between 2002 and 2017, the United States gave the Afghan military an estimated $28 billion in weaponry, including guns, rockets, night-vision goggles and even small drones for intelligence gathering.

But aircraft like the Blackhawk helicopters have been the most visible sign of U.S. military assistance, and were supposed to be the Afghan military’ biggest advantage over the Taliban.

Between 2003 and 2016 the United States provided Afghan forces with 208 aircraft, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In the last week, many of those aircraft were most useful for Afghan pilots to escape the Taliban.

One of the U.S. officials said that between 40 and 50 aircraft had been flown to Uzbekistan by Afghan pilots seeking refuge. Even before taking power in Kabul over the weekend, the Taliban had started a campaign of assassinating pilots.

Some planes were in the United States for maintenance and will stay. Those en route to Afghan forces will instead be used by the U.S. military to help in the evacuation from Kabul.

Current and former officials say that while they are concerned about the Taliban having access to the helicopters, the aircraft require frequent maintenance and many are complicated to fly without extensive training.

“Ironically, the fact that our equipment breaks down so often is a life-saver here,” a third official said.

Retired U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who oversaw U.S. military operations in Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command from 2016 to 2019, said most of the high-end hardware captured by the Taliban, including the aircraft, was not equipped with sensitive U.S. technology.

“In some cases, some of these will be more like trophies,” Votel said.

FIGHTING AT NIGHT

There is a more immediate concern about some of the easier- to-use weapons and equipment, such as night-vision goggles.

Since 2003 the United States has provided Afghan forces with at least 600,000 infantry weapons including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, and 16,000 night-vision goggle devices.

“The ability to operate at night is a real game-changer,” one congressional aide told Reuters.

Votel and others said smalls arms seized by the insurgents such as machine guns, mortars, as well as artillery pieces including howitzers, could give the Taliban an advantage against any resistance that could surface in historic anti-Taliban strongholds such as the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul.

U.S. officials said the expectation was that most of the weapons would be used by the Taliban themselves, but it was far too early to tell what they planned to do – including possibly sharing the equipment with rival states such as China.

Andrew Small, a Chinese foreign policy expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said the Taliban was likely to grant Beijing access to any U.S. weapons they may now have control over.

One of the U.S. officials said it was not likely China would gain much, because Beijing likely already has access to the weapons and equipment.

The situation, experts say, shows the United States needs a better way to monitor equipment it gives to allies. It could have done much more to ensure those supplies to Afghan forces were closely monitored and inventoried, said Justine Fleischner of UK-based Conflict Armament Research.

“But the time has passed for these efforts to have any impact in Afghanistan,” Fleischner said.

August 21, 2021. Tags: , , , , . Guns, Joe Biden, Military. Leave a comment.

Taliban seizing Afghan-American’s US passports outside Kabul airport

https://nypost.com/2021/08/20/taliban-seizing-afghan-americans-us-passports-outside-airport/

Taliban seizing Afghan-American’s US passports outside Kabul airport

By Hollie McKay

August 20, 2021

KABUL, Afghanistan — Scenes of chaos and calamity continue to unfold in and around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, as thousands of embattled Afghans purport to push through Taliban barricades and escape the country before the Taliban takes full power.

In the latest blow to those running up against the clock, Afghan-Americans on Thursday said that Taliban fighters are now attempting to take their U.S. passports and identification orders in an attempt to stop them from leaving the country.

“I got to the gates and was about to show my passport, but the Taliban got it, and he said you are not allowed to go through and wouldn’t give it back,” one Afghan-American, who served for several years as an interpreter during the war and has his home in the U.S but requested anonymity for safety reasons, said. “I was lucky a U.S. marine was right there and forced him to give it back.”

According to several others, some have not been so lucky — hamstringing their chance to make it home ahead of the Taliban’s officially assuming of the throne.

“U.S. passports, driver’s licenses — they are confiscating those pieces of documentation from American citizens,” said Ephraim Mattos, a former Navy SEAL and founder of the humanitarian organization, Stronghold Rescue and Relief, which is working around the clock to evacuate Afghans interpreters and helpers. “They lose proof of who they are, and this has happened on multiple occasions in multiple places.”

President Joe Biden on Friday said they “know of no circumstance where American citizens are carrying an American passport” and not able to reach the airport.

“We’ve made an agreement with the Taliban,” Biden said. “So we know of no circumstance where American citizens are carrying an American passport for trying to get through to the airport, but we will do whatever needs to be done to see to get more.”

Other Afghan-Americans describe scenes of crowds getting crushed and even infant babies getting injured, of brutal beatings by some Taliban members to push back the sea of frenzied faces.

Initially, Afghan Special Forces were said to control some of the key roads toward the airport. But soon after darkness fell on Wednesday, the Taliban is said to have taken over. Minute-by-minute, the scene is simply becoming direr as the insurgency cements a more formidable grasp over the city’s checkpoints and routes.

Several U.S. officials also affirmed that the Taliban on Thursday ratcheted up its crackdown encircling the airport.

The group’s leadership has vowed to protect all Afghans and assured no acts of revenge would be tolerated, while at the same time stressing that citizens of the beleaguered country should not leave.

Meanwhile, in Herat, more than a week after the Taliban seized the provincial capital, residents have continued to paint a chilling portrait of intimidation as the waiting game for the U.S. departure draws near.

“Taliban are searching home by home in Herat and asking about me,” one business owner with long-term ties to the United States, who is currently in an undisclosed location outside of Afghanistan, said. “Then others came to the Kabul office and asked about the company and our clients and warned they would search for information.”

It is a jarring fact of simply not knowing what lies ahead, driving much of the desperation forward.“These people are our allies; we fought shoulder-to-shoulder with them. I saw them fight just as bravely as any American soldier, and they deserve our support. What our country is doing to them now is a complete disgrace,” Mattos added. “What is happening is significantly worse than Saigon.”

August 21, 2021. Tags: , , , , . Joe Biden, Police state. Leave a comment.

Taliban in Afghan capital Kabul start collecting weapons from civilians

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-afghan-capital-kabul-start-collecting-weapons-civilians-2021-08-16/

Taliban in Afghan capital Kabul start collecting weapons from civilians

August 16, 2021

KABUL, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Taliban fighters in the Afghan capital, Kabul, started collecting weapons from civilians on Monday because people no longer need them for personal protection, a Taliban official said.

“We understand people kept weapons for personal safety. They can now feel safe. We are not here to harm innocent civilians,” the official told Reuters.

City resident Saad Mohseni, director of the MOBY group media company, said on Twitter that Taliban soldiers had come to his company compound to enquire about the weapons kept by his security team.

August 17, 2021. Tags: , , , . Guns, Police state. Leave a comment.

Biden kills pipelines at home but promotes them for the Taliban

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/biden-kills-pipelines-at-home-but-promotes-them-for-the-taliban

Biden kills pipelines at home but promotes them for the Taliban

By Michael Rubin

February 8, 2021

On his first day in office, President Biden canceled permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. Environmentalists and anti-fossil fuel activists should not have applauded his move.

After all, Canada will not stop extracting oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta. Instead, it will simply export oil over existing pipelines or to the Pacific Ocean, where the damage from a potential spill would be harder to address. Biden’s cancellation cost jobs and pushes Canada toward greater economic cooperation with China. It also shakes confidence in U.S. business. Who would invest in the country if any future administration can simply renege on deals with the stroke of a pen? Especially, that is, when the investments involved here reach into the billions of dollars?

Biden’s move was both political theater and an indulgence of his liberal base. But his hypocrisy was stunning even for a politician who has spent a half-century in Washington. Consider that while the Biden administration is killing a pipeline from which the public could benefit, Biden is promoting a pipeline to enrich both one of the world’s worst dictatorships and a group responsible for thousands of U.S. deaths.

The government has apparently brokered a meeting between the Turkmenistan government and the Taliban for a trans-Afghanistan pipeline to bring Turkmen gas across Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. If this scheme sounds familiar, it should: It was the same deal that now-Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to make with the Taliban in the years before the Sept. 11 terror attacks when he was a consultant for the Unocal Corporation.

Khalilzad’s scheme was bad policy two decades ago, and it is even worse now.

Put aside environmental arguments and consider profit. Freedom House’s latest Freedom in the World report ranks Turkmenistan as among the world’s worst offenders, below even North Korea in terms of freedom and civil liberties. To promote the export of Turkmen gas is to entrench its regime even further. Part of the deal is then paying the Taliban protection money or transit fees for the pipeline transiting Afghan territory. Not only would this undermine the elected Afghanistan government even further, but it would also reward the Taliban for insurgency to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each month. Who needs Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers when the State Department has crafted a scheme to reward the Taliban beyond their wildest dreams?

One issue here is Khalilzad’s penchant for using diplomacy as a stepping stone to cut side deals. But the other issue is U.S. strategic interests. Perhaps a misunderstanding of the Taliban agenda was an excuse 20 years ago. It should not be one now. If the Biden administration says no to pipeline jobs in the Midwest, it should not then turn around and help enrich the Taliban to ship Turkmen gas to the Indian Ocean. It is time for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call his envoy, end this hypocrisy, and to stop coddling some of the world’s most anti-American movements.

February 15, 2021. Tags: , , , , , , , . Environmentalism, Islamic terrorism, Joe Biden. Leave a comment.