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On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Joe Biden at the White House:

He and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrived in the United States on Monday for discussions about trade and climate change.

The two spent a day in New York then travelled by Amtrak to Washington, DC:

New York

On Monday, Boris gave a speech at the UN Climate Roundtable in advance of COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November:

The full text of his speech is here.

This short video shows Boris summarising his message to world leaders:

COP26 will be the biggest single political event that the UK has ever hosted. I hope that Glasgow is ready:

The Prime Minister met with President Bolsonaro of Brazil and President Moon of South Korea. He also met with Martin Griffiths of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and, for whatever reason, with Jeff Bezos of Amazon:

There was speculation on what Boris and Bezos discussed:

In fact, they did discuss tax as well as the Bezos Earth Fund:

They discussed the upcoming COP26 Summit and agreed that there was an urgent need to mobilise more public and private money to help developing countries protect biodiversity, including through the LEAF Coalition.

The Prime Minister welcomed the Bezos Earth Fund’s commitment, announced tonight, to give $1 billion to protect forests and remove carbon from the air. The Prime Minister and Mr Bezos agreed to work together to see what more could be done in the run up to and at COP26.

The Prime Minister raised the issue of taxation, and hoped progress could be in implementing the G7 agreement on tax.

Beth Rigby from Sky News was in New York to interview Boris. They talked over each other for two minutes:

I wish he had mentioned her suspension from Sky for flouting coronavirus rules last December:

Boris’s interview for the Today show went much better. He was diplomatic about Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, even when Savannah Guthrie pressed him on the subject:

Guthrie asked Boris about President Trump. Again, Boris was diplomatic, saying that prime ministers have to get along with US presidents. In fact, Trump was mentioned very little in Parliament, including by Boris. I do not get the impression that Boris was sorry Trump lost the election. In fact, he has said in the Commons — as he does in the clip below — that he considers Biden a ‘breath of fresh air’. Biden’s name gets mentioned quite a lot in Parliament, by the way:

Boris also discussed family life and his unwavering belief in American ideals:

The Sun‘s Harry Cole was on hand to broadcast for Sky News from New York:

He said that New York hasn’t yet bounced back from coronavirus:

The British press pack then travelled to Washington DC:

Washington DC

On Tuesday, the day that she and Boris went to Washington, Liz Truss’s office issued the following tweet about the special relationship between the US and the UK:

Hmm.

Truss held a press huddle on the train:

While Truss met with her American counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Boris met with Kamala Harris at the Eisenhower Building:

Downing Street issued this summary of their meeting. Topics included the new AUKUS alliance, climate change and humanitarian efforts. Boris also expressed his gratitude to the US military for their leadership in withdrawing from Afghanistan.

British journalist Hugo Gye objected to the Eisenhower Building’s architecture:

Then it was time to meet with Joe Biden.

Biden arrived by helicopter, no doubt from Delaware:

Unlike the Trumps, the Bidens do not greet their guests at the door:

Liz Truss accompanied the Prime Minister:

Hugo Gye has a summary of the meeting and brief press conference in the Oval Office. Anne Sacoolas is an American ‘diplomat’ who was in a road accident in England leading to the death of a young man, Harry Dunn:

My American readers will be very familiar with the Amtrak anecdote, which Biden used on the campaign trail last year:

In the end, the chances of a trade deal appear slim. Trump would have definitely been open to one.

Boris took two questions from the media, one from Harry Cole and the other from Beth Rigby.

Biden pointed to Harry Cole first:

Biden and Boris gave this answer on the Harry Dunn case:

Biden did not solicit questions, even though there were plenty of reporters in the Oval Office. When the session adjourned, they started shouting various questions at him. He apparently answered a question about the southern border, but the reporter could not hear the answer over the din. The reporters filed a complaint with Jen Psaki, who once again replied that the president takes questions ‘several times a week’:

Downing Street issued a summary of the private meeting which followed:

… The President and Prime Minister agreed that the new AUKUS alliance, announced last week, was a clear articulation of the UK and America’s shared values and approach to the world. They underscored the important role the alliance will play in promoting peace and stability around the world, harnessing British, American and Australian expertise to solve future challenges.

The leaders welcomed the close cooperation between our countries during the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Prime Minister expressed his condolences for the American servicepeople killed during the operation. The Prime Minister and President Biden agreed that the best way to honour all those who gave their lives to make Afghanistan a better place will be to use all the diplomatic and humanitarian tools at our disposal to prevent a humanitarian crisis and preserve the gains made in Afghanistan.

To that end, they discussed the progress made since the G7 meeting last month to coordinate international action on Afghanistan. They agreed that any international recognition of the Taliban must be coordinated and contingent on the group respecting human rights.

The Prime Minister welcomed President Biden’s leadership on the issue of climate, and his announcement today that the US would double its climate finance commitment. The leaders agreed on the need for G7 countries to deliver on the promises made in Carbis Bay, particularly with regard to phasing out the use of coal and supporting developing countries to grow cleanly. They agreed the Build Back Better World Initiative would be crucial in achieving this. The Prime Minister said he looks forward to welcoming the President to the COP26 Summit in Glasgow.

The Prime Minster and President Biden also agreed on the need to increase international vaccine access to deliver on the commitment made in Cornwall to vaccinate the world by the end of next year. They noted that the success of the British and American vaccine rollouts has been instrumental in allowing UK-US travel to resume. The Prime Minister welcomed the US announcement that they will allow double vaccinated British nationals to enter the country from November, a move which will allow families and friends to reunite and will help stimulate our economies.

The Prime Minister updated President Biden on the developments with respect to the Northern Ireland Protocol since they last met in June. The leaders agreed on the importance of protecting peace in Northern Ireland …

Not surprisingly, it is unlikely we will get a trade deal with the US. Biden is concerned about the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol disturbing the peace agreement between that nation and the Republic of Ireland:

Return to New York

The Telegraph reports Boris Johnson remained in Washington on Wednesday to meet with:

US politicians at Capitol Hill, including senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy.

Afterwards, he visited Arlington Cemetery before returning to New York to deliver his climate change speech at the UN:

He will then travel to Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, before returning to New York, where he will give his climate change speech to the UN General Assembly in the early hours of the morning UK time.

Liz Truss was in New York on Wednesday to address her counterparts on the UN Security Council:

Sky News reported:

She will chair talks with foreign ministers from the US, France, China, and Russia – the countries that, along with the UK, make up the five permanent members of the United Nations security council – in New York later.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is also expected to join the discussions.

Ms Truss’s aides say she will be promoting greater cooperation among the so-called P5.

This will include encouraging Beijing and Moscow to “act as one” with other international military forces to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a home for global terrorists following the Taliban’s takeover last month.

But “un peu riche” (a little rich) may be the French retort as the diplomatic rift deepens over a new security pact between Australia, the UK and the US that leaves France out in the cold and China smarting.

Trade might be off the table for now, but, no doubt, both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss will make progress in other areas.

From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, anyone who doubted Big Media’s narrative was branded a conspiracy theorist.

Strangely, most of what notional conspiracy theorists spoke and wrote about in 2020 has come true.

Last week, I read two articles of interest about the virus, the New York Times (NYT) and China.

The NYT, China and the virus

On August 2, 2021, Ashley Rindsberg, the author of The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’ Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History, wrote an article for UnHerd: ‘Did the New York Times stifle lab leak debate?’

What an eye-opener it is. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Rindsberg has done a lot of research into the history of the paper, nicknamed The Gray Lady in the United States.

He says that the paper’s relationship with China has been going on for over a decade and explores its dubious ties with totalitarian regimes of the 20th century:

Researching and writing my new book, I discovered that the Times has a dark history of inadvertently helping authoritarian regimes with its reporting, including the Nazis, the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro.

In the case of China, this appears true to an alarming degree. For over a decade, the Times has nurtured a special relationship with the CCP — though we can only speculate as to whether this influenced its editorial output. Still, the Times certainly appeared unconcerned about the appearance of impropriety as it took millions of dollars from Chinese propaganda outlets, most prominently China Daily. In exchange for this badly needed revenue, the Times has published hundreds of “advertorials” written by Chinese propaganda outlets, including China Daily, which promote CCP messaging on the most serious topics, such as a double-page spread on the hotly contested Diaoyu Islands brazenly titled: “Diaoyu Islands Belong to China.

But the paper’s advertising relationship with Chinese state outlets is only the visible part of the iceberg. In 2012, seeking to capitalise on China’s burgeoning middle and upper classes, the Times launched a Chinese edition of its daily paper followed by the launch of a luxury lifestyle magazine. “The appetite for New York Times journalism in Chinese has never been stronger,” a company press release stated at the time.

In investing so heavily in China, the Times unintentionally handed the rapacious CCP an editorial lever to sway coverage. The Times learned this first-hand when, in 2012, the CCP blocked Chinese access to the Times online in retaliation for an unfavourable article on the family finances of China’s outgoing premier, Wen Jiabao. The Times set out on a year-long “lobbying” effort to restore coverage that included meetings with Xinhua, the parent of China Daily.

In early 2020, the lab leak hypothesis was roundly condemned in Big Media, especially the NYT.

Rindsberg leads us through the timeline and the narrative:

Of course, over the past year newspapers across the world have fallen for the CCP’s distorted Covid-19 narrative. And there is no evidence to suggest that the CCP did put pressure on the Times. But when it came to the lab leak debate, the Times was relentless. Starting in early 2020, when little was known about the virus — and nothing about its origins — the Times adopted a stridently anti-lab leak stance. In its first report on the topic, a February 17, 2020 article covering comments made by Sen. Tom Cotton, the Times stigmatised lab leak as a “fringe theory”. Once the story was published, its reporter took to Twitter to describe it as “the kind of conspiracy once reserved for the tinfoil hatters”.

Only one week prior, another outlet made strikingly similar claims. In an editorial, the CCP-owned China Daily thundered that Cotton’s decision to spread “malicious rumors” shows “how irresponsible some are in their haste to attack China”. The Times, echoing China Daily, also cast the lab leak hypothesis as a “rumor”.

Over the months, the Times’s coverage grew even more strident — and more in line with Chinese propaganda. In February 2020, it gave a platform to zoologist Peter Daszak, publishing an opinion piece by him which claimed that the pandemic was caused by “road-building, deforestation, land clearing and agricultural development”. Daszak argued that “discovering and sequencing” viruses like Covid-19 in labs like the one in Wuhan should be a priority.

The Times, which used Daszak as a key source in over a dozen articles, has never mentioned that Daszak’s organisation funded the Wuhan lab, in particular research into bats and coronaviruses, a flagrant conflict of interest. Crucially, there was no mention of this when a reporter interviewed Daszak this February, following his return from a heavily criticised WHO investigation into the virus’s origins. (Danszak later recused himself from the investigation because of the conflict of interest.)

But the Times also never revealed that Daszak was a favoured source for another outlet: China Daily. The state-owned media organisation, along with Xinhua and sister outlet Global Times, repeatedly quoted Daszak to assure readers of China’s full cooperation in the search for the virus’s origins — and to discredit the possibility of a lab leak.

The NYT‘s coverage was so supportive of China that Chinese publications began quoting it:

In April 2020, for instance, the Times published an article claiming the Trump Administration’s investigation into a lab leak “has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assessments saying that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruction.” Within minutes, a China Daily columnist retweeted the story and parroted its central claim.

With more information coming out about a possible lab leak, the NYT has changed tack:

Today, however, just as the tide is turning on the lab leak debate, so too is the Times’s approach to the subject. Last summer, the Times abruptly ended its advertising relationship with Chinese state media outlets and scrubbed all trace of the advertorials from its archive. And in recent months, it has published a handful of articles quoting scientists who believe we should take seriously the prospect of a lab leak.

But does this excuse the paper’s behaviour at the start of the pandemic?

I do not think so. The NYT is one of the world’s most influential newspapers. Everyone takes what it says as gospel truth. It is hard to disagree with Ashley Rindsberg on his conclusion:

Only time will tell whether the lab leak hypothesis is true or false. But whatever the result, what a tragedy it would be if the Times’s coverage delayed that verdict.

Lab leak update

On Friday, September 10, 2021, UnHerd posted the latest on a possible lab leak in Ian Birrell’s article, ‘Is this proof of lab leak lies?’ Birrell is an award-winning foreign reporter and columnist.

Over the past several years, the United States, Britain’s Peter Daszak and France were all involved at some point with the Wuhan labs.

Birrell tells us:

we do know one thing now beyond debate: speculative “gain-of-function” experiments on mutant bat viruses were taking place in Wuhan laboratories.

This research, carried out in labs that did not have maximum level of biosafety, was increasing the infectivity of laboratory-created diseases by constructing chimeric coronaviruses — despite strong denial of such practices by the key Chinese scientists. And the bio-engineering was being funded by United States taxpayers — channelled through a charity run by a British scientist — despite similar denials from America’s most senior public health officials that they supported such science fiction activities in Chinese labs.

This information was uncovered via freedom of information requests made in the United States by The Intercept, which is devoted to investigative reporting:

The Intercept obtained 900 pages of documents detailing two research grants in 2014 and 2019 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to EcoHealth Alliance. This is the charity headed by Peter Daszak, the controversial Briton who led efforts to squash “conspiracy theories” about a possible lab incident after spending years hunting viruses with Shi Zhengli, the now-famous “Batwoman” expert at Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

While some of this information was already circulating, The Intercept was able to obtain updates on the relevant projects:

… these documents include the original proposals along with project updates, so significantly flesh out what we knew. They highlight how US funding bodies outsourced risky gain-of-function research to China, even over a three-year period between 2014 and 2017 when it was banned in their own nation. They also show, with new clarity, the kind of work taking place in secretive Wuhan labs. These disclosures fuel the mystery over the pandemic origins, while also sparking fresh concerns over top scientists in both China and the West who sought to suppress inquiries into the lab leak hypothesis.

The NYT had a role to play here in defending the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV):

A $3.1m grant, according to the documents, was awarded to understand “the risk of bat coronavirus emergence” through screening thousands of samples collected from the nocturnal creatures. This included a chunk of funding worth $599,000 for WIV. Bear in mind that three months ago, Shi, director of its Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, angrily protested over the world “pouring filth on an innocent scientist” when emphatically refuting that they carried out gain-of-function work. “My lab has never conducted or co-operated in conducting GOF experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses” she told the New York Times.

Birrell gives us the NIH’s definition for ‘gain of function’ (GOF):

the term gain-of-function research describes a type of research that modifies a biological agent so that it confers new or enhanced activity to that agent.

The following are real life examples of GOF:

Analysis of these papers show US funds supported construction of new chimeric Sars-related coronaviruses, which combined a spike gene from one with genetic material from another — and then showed the resulting creation could infect human cells and mice engineered to display human-type receptors on their cells.

One new virus had increased pathogenicity over the original virus and three new viruses increased viral load in lung tissues up to ten thousandfold, which is most definitely “enhanced activity.” As scientists pointed out to me, these results demonstrated increased pathogenicity of SARSr-CoVs with different spike proteins in humanised mouse models. And similar construction work was proposed to be done with another type of deadly pathogen — the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, which first flared up in Jordan nine years ago after spilling over from camels and has since cropped up in 27 countries, causing 858 deaths.

Dr Fauci is also involved:

Anthony Fauci, the US infectious diseases expert and presidential adviser, insisted earlier this year that his country “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology”. His stance led to a furious clash in Congress with Senator Rand Paul, who gleefully tweeted after The Intercept published its article on the papers: “Surprise surprise – Fauci lied again. And I was right about his agency funding novel coronavirus research at Wuhan.”

Paul was backed by Richard Ebright, the bio-security expert and professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, who has long been a fierce critic of such work since he argues that the risks of creating new diseases in laboratories vastly outweigh any potential benefits. The documents make it clear that assertions by Anthony Fauci and the NIH Director, Francis Collins that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful,” he said.

Birrell discusses France’s involvement with Wuhan:

Buried in the documents are two more intriguing details. First, the experimental work creating mutant chimeric coronaviruses was carried out at WIV’s biosafety level 2 lab and then the work analysing them in humanised mice performed at the biosafety level 3 Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment, not at the new maximum level 4 WIV lab built with French assistance. The cluster of labs at the university hospital, incidentally, includes a breeding centre that created at least 1,000 types of genetically engineered animals from mice to monkeys. So this means the details in the papers accord with a previous statement by Shi that their coronavirus research is “conducted in BSL-2 or BSL-3 laboratories” — although a level 2 lab has, some say, barely higher safety standards than a dental clinic and certainly few safeguards against an lethal airborne virus.

As for Daszak, while he defended China, his charity warned about viral infections from animals encountered in fieldwork:

while Daszak has been condemning supposed conspiracy theories and defending his friends in China with whom he has collected thousands of samples, his own charity was pointing out the major risk of accidental infection faced by researchers when collecting such specimens in a project he led. “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled. There is also some risk of exposure to pathogens …while handling bats, civets, rodents or other animals, their blood samples or their excreta.”

Accidental viral infection via animals was another point mentioned early last year which the media summarily dismissed.

The story of the origins of COVID-19 continues to unfold.

I look forward to reading more in future and covering it here.

It used to be that vaccines prevented infection.

Coronavirus has changed all that. The double-vaxxed are ending up infected:

Andrew Doyle, who hosts Free Speech Nation for GB News, has it, and he’s taken his shots.

ITV’s Robert Peston, also double-vaxxed, has it, too:

Peston was supposed to be in Aberdeenshire in Scotland but had to cancel:

I hope he recovers soon.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the debate rages on as to whether children over the age of 12 should receive the vaccine and whether older adults should have a booster shot this autumn.

British supporters of vaccines for children say that such programmes in the United States and France have been highly successful. Hmm.

Dr Robert W Malone is an American physician as well as an inventor of mRNA vaccines and RNA as a drug. He directs his readers to an article in LifeSiteNews about possible coercion being used in high schools:

Meanwhile, the WHO is urging countries wishing to vaccinate their children to donate those doses to Covax instead for wider use around the world. The reply to this tweet includes a statement from Britain’s JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation) which recommended against children’s vaccinations on Friday, September 3:

The WHO also disagrees with booster shots in Western countries, again recommending donating those doses to poorer countries:

The UK also wants to roll out vaccine passports by the end of the month. If we can catch the virus despite two jabs, what is the point? It seems as if we are all back at Square One, only that we are susceptible to milder cases rather than death.

Speaking of deaths, the UK figures for 2021 are on a par with other years since the vaccine rollout began. I saw this graphic on another site with no attribution. Note the bright green line up to Week 33:

https://image.vuukle.com/ed685e8a-908f-4503-badc-e6b31ad2d2c9-ce96d61c-073c-4c3f-bbe6-76ad654e3b52

Moving to poorer countries now, not every nation has shown signs of infection or deaths:

Dr Malone says that Peru had a preventive programme of giving its citizens doses of ivermectin until a new president scrapped it. At that point, fatal infections began rising dramatically:

Since the pandemic began, ivermectin for humans has been taken off the market in several Western countries or is restricted on a prescription-only basis for certain conditions, excluding the virus. In many first-world countries, ivermectin is now used solely on animals for various diseases. The current formulation is made for their consumption.

Yet, in Peru and Africa, the formulation for humans is still available. It is inexpensive and is used to cure a variety of diseases as the following Twitter thread about Africa tells us.

The countries in blue are where ivermectin is used on humans. Note the differences in coronavirus cases and deaths:

Ivermectin, sold under the trade name Mectizan, is used to treat river blindness, a common and highly painful disease. It is not unusual to see people with a pair of eyebrow tweezers on a chain around their necks. Among other things, river blindness inflames the eyelash follicles. The only way to relieve the intense pain is to carefully pluck the offending eyelash. It is an ongoing pain until the disease is cured:

The Japanese have looked at sub-Saharan data and have recommended ivermectin to the government as a treatment for coronavirus:

It seems that the Japanese government rejected the use of ivermectin in combatting coronavirus. The updated statistics for Africa are in the second tweet:

Another big supporter of ivermectin is Karl Denninger of The Market Ticker.

On December 18, 2020, he wrote that by giving Americans two tablets of ivermectin, coronavirus could be stopped in one week in the United States. Two tablets in total is all it would take (emphases in the original):

… Why the hell are you not only letting them get away with it but willing to stand in line and take a not-fully-tested shot when a $2 alternative that does the same thing and has been proved safe over more than 30 years of time is available, and it also has a remarkable record of preventing serious disease and death.   This has been known for months.

We can stop Covid-19 in ONE WEEK.

One.  Not five, six, eight or ten as promised by Dr. Redfield with his “masks” who, I remind you, lied.  Covid-19 did not stop even though he got what he wanted.

The science and the CDC’s own data says this will work in ONE WEEK.

And the risk if it doesn’t work as the science and math says it will?

STATISTICALLY NONE; the drug in question has had over 3.5 billion doses dispensed worldwide and, on the data, is safer than Tylenol and the number of pills you must take is two.

Not two per day.

Two.

Ivermectin will receive broad media coverage only when it’s too late. What a pity.

We continue to find out more about what went on behind the scenes in Afghanistan.

Biden-Ghani telephone call transcript

Somehow, Reuters received recordings and transcripts of two telephone calls between Washington and Ashraf Ghani, the then-president of Afghanistan.

The fuller of the two transcripts comes from the July 23 call between Joe Biden and Ghani. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Biden told Ghani that the ‘perception’ in Washington and the Pentagon is that Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban is not going well:

And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.

Biden suggested that Ghani implement a new strategy focused on major population centres. He also said that the Afghan army far outnumbered the Taliban:

You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing. And all the way through the end of August, and who knows what after that.

We are also going to continue to make sure your air force is capable of continuing to fly and provide air support. In addition to that we are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows because it is clearly in the interest of the people of Afghanistan, that you succeed and you lead. And though I know this is presumptuous of me on one hand to say such things so directly to you, I have known you for a long while, I find you a brilliant and honorable man.

Ghani explained the situation at the time, which involved terrorists from Pakistan, insufficient pay for the Afghan army and the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with his government:

Mr. President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this, so that dimension needs to be taken account of.

Second, what is crucial is, close air support, and if I could make a request, you have been very generous, if your assistance, particularly to our air force be front loaded, because what we need at this moment, there was a very heavily reliance on air power, and we have prioritized that if it could be at all front-loaded, we will greatly appreciate it.

And third, regarding procedure for the rest of the assistance, for instance, military pay is not increased for over a decade. We need to make some gestures to rally everybody together so if you could assign the national security advisor or the Pentagon, anyone you wish to work with us on the details, so our expectations particularly regarding your close air support. There are agreements with the Taliban that we [or “you” this is unclear] are not previously aware of, and because of your air force was extremely cautious in attacking them.

And the last point, I just spoke again to Dr. Abdullah earlier, he went to negotiate with the Taliban, the Taliban showed no inclination. We can get to peace only if we rebalance the military situation. And I can assure you…

Biden appeared to be talking at the same time, as his reply is recorded as ‘crosstalk’.

Ghani continued, ending on an optimistic note about the strength of the resistance to the Taliban:

And I can assure you I have been to four of our key cities, I’m constantly traveling with the vice president and others, we will be able to rally. Your assurance of support goes a very long way to enable us, to really mobilize in earnest. The urban resistance, Mr. President is been extraordinary, there are cities that have taken a siege of 55 days and that have not surrendered. Again, I thank you and I’m always just a phone call away. This is what a friend tells a friend, so please don’t feel that you’re imposing on me.

Biden responded:

No, well, look, I, thank you. Look, close air support works only if there is a military strategy on the ground to support.

Was Biden indicating, consciously or otherwise, that he was going to pull US troops out within three weeks?

On August 31, Reuters issued further information about the phone call, allegedly the last conversation between the two men:

The men spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23. On August 15, Ghani fled the presidential palace, and the Taliban entered Kabul …

Reuters reviewed a transcript of the presidential phone call and has listened to the audio to authenticate the conversation. The materials were provided on condition of anonymity by a source who was not authorized to distribute it

I wonder about the first sentence below:

The American leader’s words indicated he didn’t anticipate the massive insurrection and collapse to come 23 days later. “We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows,” said Biden.

The White House Tuesday declined to comment on the call.

After the call, the White House released a statement that focused on Biden’s commitment to supporting Afghan security forces and the administration seeking funds for Afghanistan from Congress.

Well, the Biden administration would say anything, because:

By the time of the call, the United States was well into its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, which Biden had postponed from the May date set by his predecessor, Donald Trump. The U.S. military had closed its main Afghanistan air base, at Bagram, in early July.

As the two presidents spoke, Taliban insurgents controlled about half of Afghanistan’s district centers, indicating a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

By August 9, it became clear that the US was leaving matters in Afghan hands:

In a little over two weeks after Biden’s call with Ghani, the Taliban captured several provincial Afghan capitals and the United States said it was up to the Afghan security forces to defend the country. “These are their military forces, these are their provincial capitals, their people to defend,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on August 9.

That said, US intelligence indicated that Kabul would not fall into Taliban hands for at least 30 days, possibly 90:

On August 11, U.S. intelligence reports indicated Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90. Instead, the fall happened in less than a week.

I wonder if Britain received the same briefing (see below).

Pakistan took exception to Ghani’s allegations that they were fuelling the insurrection by the Taliban:

The Pakistani Embassy in Washington denies those allegations. “Clearly the myth of Taliban fighters crossing from Pakistan is unfortunately an excuse and an afterthought peddled by Mr. Ashraf Ghani to justify his failure to lead and govern,” an embassy spokesman told Reuters.

Ghani could not be reached for comment:

Reuters tried to reach Ghani’s staff for this story, in calls and texts, with no success. The last public statement from Ghani, who is believed to be in the United Arab Emirates, came on August 18. He said he fled Afghanistan to prevent bloodshed.

Military call with Ghani

Reuters’ August 31 article says that the second call with then-President Ghani also took place on July 23, after his conversation with Joe Biden:

In a follow-up call later that day that did not include the U.S. president, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, General Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command commander General Frank McKenzie spoke to Ghani. Reuters also obtained a transcript of that call.

In this call, too, an area of focus was the global perception of events on the ground in Afghanistan. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Ghani “the perception in the United States, in Europe and the media sort of thing is a narrative of Taliban momentum, and a narrative of Taliban victory. And we need to collectively demonstrate and try to turn that perception, that narrative around.”

“I do not believe time is our friend here. We need to move quickly,” McKenzie added.

A spokesperson for McKenzie declined to comment. A spokesman for Milley did not respond by publication time.

US armoured vehicles move from Afghanistan to Iran

On September 1, The Gateway Pundit reported that US vehicles captured by the Taliban have been seen in Iran (emphasis in the original):

The Taliban was filmed this week moving captured US military vehicles to Iran.
Thanks to Joe Biden and the woke US Generals.

The article includes the following tweets.

The first comes from Asaad Hanna, a journalist:

Comments to Hanna’s tweet included another photo:

The second tweet in The Gateway Pundit‘s article is from Al Arabiya News:

The Gateway Pundit‘s article includes a long list of American military equipment that was left behind in Afghanistan.

Here is the summary:

As The Gateway Pundit reported earlier on Sunday — Joe Biden left 300 times more guns than those passed to the Mexican cartels in Obama’s Fast and Furious program.

A more complete list was created with public information and help from other intelligence sources.  The list does not include all the extra kinds of nonlethal equipment, everything from MRE’s, Medical Equipment, and even energy drinks.
 
The big story might be the pallets of cash the Taliban have been posting videos of pallets of weapons and stacks of $100 bills they have seized
 
If the Taliban has 208 military aircraft then according to the NationMaster list the Taliban now ranks #26 of all countries in the number of military aircraft.
 

The Biden administration would rather the public not know; the information has been scrubbed. Imagine if President Trump had done this:

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appears before Parliamentary committee

On Wednesday, September 1, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, comprised of a cross-party group of MPs.

I watched the proceedings and thought that he acquitted himself well.

One of the difficulties in anticipating Joe Biden’s sudden withdrawal of troops, he said, was weighing up America’s ‘intent’ versus their ‘capability’.

It also appears that the UK gave Raab the same aforementioned erroneous intelligence from the US about the Taliban seizing control of Kabul within 30 to 90 days:

Andrew Gimson wrote for Conservative Home about the session which lasted just under two hours. I found his article rather unfair, especially considering the US was displaying the same lack of intelligence.

However, it does provide a précis of two main points of the hearing:

Tom Tugendhat (Con, Tonbridge and Malling), the chair of the committee, sought to establish how much attention ministers had been paying not only to Afghanistan, but to neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, through which evacuation by land might or might not be permitted …

Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda) reminded Raab that the Foreign Office’s travel advice for British nationals in Afghanistan only changed on 6th August.

Bryant also pressed Raab about why he went on holiday and did not return until after August 15, the day when Kabul fell to the Taliban. Another Labour MP asked the same question, as did an SNP MP who did not give Raab time to respond.

As for his lack of discussions with ambassadors in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, Raab said that his department’s procedure is to receive regular reports from them then collate them into one report that provides a detailed meta view of the situation on the ground.

When asked why he had not been to Pakistan lately, Raab replied that the pandemic made it nearly impossible.

Tugendhat asked Raab why the UK wasn’t using a safe passage to Uzbekistan as the Germans were. Tugendhat said that it was an ‘effective’ route. Raab countered, saying that it was ‘effective’ until Uzbekistan closed its border.

Raab took great pains to point out the positive aspects of the past fortnight, e.g. evacuating 17,000 people at short notice.

A few MPs, including Conservatives, asked him about the evacuation phone number in the Foreign Office that was inoperable and the emails that went unanswered. Their in-boxes were full of complaints about it. Raab said that most phone calls were answered in under a minute. He said that his staff were responding to a great number of emails.

However, this was one of several tweets from the middle of August indicating there was a problem. Sir Laurie Bristow was the UK ambassador to Afghanistan:

A Labour MP, Neil Coyle, asked why the portrait of the Queen remained in the Kabul embassy. Raab said he was unaware that it was still there. According to Coyle, the Taliban posed in front of it.

The best part was the final question from Claudia Webbe (Lab). She asked why the UK had been in Afghanistan for the past 40 (!) years:

Raab gave her a withering look and reminded her of the two decades prior to 2001, which included Soviet occupation.

Guido Fawkes said (emphasis in the original):

Claudia Webbe was back for yet another Foreign Affairs Select Committee appearance this afternoon, once again taking Dominic Raab to task with the hard-hitting questions no one else is brave enough to ask. Raab’s look of total bemusement at “What is your understanding of civil wars in Afghanistan” was one particular highlight. “Claudia, this is just nonsense” was another…

It seems as if Guido Fawkes’s readers have a better reading of Raab’s performance than the pundits. A selection follows. Unfortunately, Guido’s system does not have URLs to each comment.

Overall (emphases mine):

What was there to discuss? Pushing to ask what date he went on holiday and whether he considered resigning through to whether picture of the Queen would have been abandoned. There would have been far superior questions asked by people on any high street.

This thread had two notable comments. Here’s the first:

Raab was working on intelligence assessments, not his own thoughts on what would happen.

It is about optics. It looks bad if you want it to, but the facts are that the collapse was quicker than anticipated, and the UK still managed to airlift 17,000 people out in a very short time frame, for which they should be commended.

And here’s the second, about the phone call to his Afghan counterpart that was never made. The first sentence is tongue in cheek:

Raab would have made a phone call which would have resulted in the immediate surrender of the Taliban.

Though I prefer to be controversial and think that it would have made zero difference. Raab is a leaver and a Tory so the blame for the Afghan farce lies squarely with him and Trump, in the eyes of the loons.

The final comment is about Tom Tugendhat, which is probably true:

Tugendhat is an opportunistic @rsehole who is trying anything to advance his own position out of this crisis.

The back-stabber was even quoting from leaked FO documents at yesterday’s hearing to attack Raab.

Raab left the session promptly in order to travel to Qatar where he discussed various issues relating to Afghanistan:

Raab is spending the weekend in Pakistan for talks with his counterpart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There will be a discussion about the UK’s £30 million aid package; one-third will go to humanitarian organisations and the rest to countries taking in Afghan refugees.

Two other political journalists reviewed Raab’s performance. Madeline Grant, writing for The Telegraph, gave him a thumbs-down. However, The Times‘s Quentin Letts reminded us that select committee hearings are often about political point-scoring:

As Westminster cynics know, select committees are not really about policy. They are vehicles for the ambitions of the MPs who run them and they can be used to give legs to a juicy hoo-hah …

Raab’s own performance? The left shoulder twitched. That is always a sign he is under pressure. He kept fiddling with his nose, too. But he is one of the grown-ups in the cabinet and it was not immediately apparent he had been seriously damaged by his self-serving scrutineers.

At Conservative Home, James Frayne did not think the public will be bothered by the select committee hearing or by Raab’s perceived neglect of the Afghan situation:

While unnamed Government sources are seeking to apportion blame to particular politicians (Raab, most obviously), the public don’t and won’t think along these lines; within reason, they think of the Government as an entity, rather than as being devolved in any meaningful way.

This means there’s a limit to what “damage control” the Government can do by throwing particular politicians and officials under a bus. It will all land at the door of the PM where public opinion is concerned.

Will there be enough stories, cumulatively, to provoke a general backlash against this Government at last? Time will tell (I have no idea what’s coming out) but I doubt it. Hard as it is for many commentators to understand or believe, for most of its supporters, this Government has a lot of credit in the bank on questions of judgement and competence.

I fully agree. Dominic Raab could not have prevented the Taliban taking over Kabul. He’s not one of my favourite MPs, but he is doing a good job in very difficult circumstances.

————————————————————————————

The next few weeks should be interesting. What new revelations about Afghanistan will appear?

It was saddening and maddening to watch events unfold in Afghanistan this week.

General McKenzie and the Taliban

On August 29, the Washington Post reported that General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command, refused an offer from the Taliban to stay out of Kabul and let the US control the city:

The US never should have handed back control of Bagram Air Base, the size of a small city, in July.

On the other hand:

Britain plans air strikes

The Afghanistan war is over, or maybe not:

This was The Independent‘s front page on Tuesday, August 31:

The Royal Air Force, following the United States, is planning fresh air strikes to defeat terror, according to The Telegraph (emphases mine unless otherwise stated):

Just three days after the British military presence in Afghanistan ended after 20 years of conflict, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, head of the Royal Air Force, told The Telegraph: “Ultimately, what this boils down to is that we’ve got to be able to play a global role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh [IS] – whether it’s strike or whether it’s moving troops or equipment into a particular country at scale and at speed.”

Earlier on Monday, August 30, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Britain was willing to use ‘all means necessary’:

His comments come after Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said on Monday that Britain was willing to use “all means necessary” to combat IS amid warnings that the chaos in Afghanistan has increased the terror threat to the UK.

Mr Raab signed a joint statement issued by the US-led coalition that previously targeted IS in Syria and Iraq, vowing to “draw on all elements of national power – military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, law enforcement” to crush the terror group.

He said: “The UK stands united with our coalition partners in mourning those killed by Daesh’s horrific attack at Kabul airport and in our unwavering collective resolve to combat Daesh networks by all means available, wherever they operate.”

An examination of how this will be done has already started:

The Telegraph understands that government officials have examined logistics for air strikes raising questions about where RAF jets would be based, how they would refuel and how targets would be identified on the ground.

Sir Mike said he was in discussion with his international counterparts about long-term plans to base more RAF units overseas, including the Protector drone which is due to come into service in 2024.

Meanwhile, news emerged alleging that the Pentagon accused the UK’s evacuation efforts of being indirectly responsible for the death of 13 American soldiers in the terror bombing last Wednesday:

The projection of unity from the global coalition to defeat IS came as the Pentagon faced a backlash from Tory MPs over the leaked minutes of classified calls among American commanders that took place last week.

The conference call transcripts were said to cite the UK evacuation effort as the reason for keeping open Abbey Gate at Kabul airport, where 13 American personnel were later killed by a suicide bomb.

However, a UK Government source hit back at the claim, insisting: “I don’t think it was just the UK using the gate.” The Pentagon said the Politico story was based on “unlawful disclosure of classified information”.

A flurry of diplomatic activity took place on Monday, aimed at building international consensus on Afghanistan.

The story made the front page of The Times. Pictured are two little boys who lost their lives in last week’s bombing:

On Tuesday, Dominic Raab appeared on BBC Breakfast to defend the continuing British evacuation on the day of the bombing:

He said (emphasis in the original):

We coordinated very closely with the US, in particular around the ISIS-K threat which we anticipated, although tragically were not able to prevent, but it is certainly right to say we got our civilians out of the processing centre by Abbey Gate, but it is just not true to suggest that other than securing our civilians inside the airport that we were pushing to leave the gate open.

This story will run and run for political reasons. The BBC and other media outlets want Raab to jump or be pushed. After all, he did support Brexit and served as Boris’s deputy PM when the former was in the hospital last year with coronavirus.

The Taliban celebrate

On Monday, August 30, the Taliban celebrated the final departure of US troops:

Note the British and American law enforcement hats on the table:

On Sunday, August 29, a group of armed Taliban stood menacingly behind a television news presenter who was on air. The Daily Mail has the story, along with photos and a video. It’s like something out of a hostage movie:

In the 42-second clip, which has since been viewed more than 1 million times, the news anchor is surrounded by eight armed men who appear to be guarding him as he reads.

It has been reported they stormed the building on Sunday and demanded the presenter speak with them.

According to WIO News, the news anchor carried out a debate with the militants while on air.

The news outlet reports that the presenter spoke about the collapse of the Government in Afghanistan and urged the Afghan people not to be afraid.

During the show, called Pardaz, the anchor also reportedly told people to co-operate with the group.

The video was filmed as US armed forces said they had carried out a successful drone strike mission which prevented a second terrorist attack at Kabul airport …

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad retweeted the video and wrote: ‘This is surreal. 

‘Taliban militants are posing behind this visibly petrified TV host with guns and making him to say that people of #Afghanistan shouldn’t be scared of the Islamic Emirate.

‘Taliban itself is synonymous with fear in the minds of millions. This is just another proof.’

Al Qaeda boss returns to Afghanistan

On Monday, August 30, the Daily Mail reported that an Al Qaeda supremo, Amin ul-Haq, has returned to Afghanistan.

He received a hero’s welcome:

A close aide of Osama bin Laden has returned to his home in Afghanistan after 20 years of US occupation just hours until American forces finish their evacuation from the war-torn country by President Joe Biden‘s deadline, a video purports to show.

Amin ul-Haq, a top Al Qaeda arms supplier, returned to his hometown in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province on Monday just over two weeks after the Taliban completed its lightening fast offensive to take over nearly all of the country.

Ul-Haq headed bin Laden’s security when he was occupying the Tora Bora cave complex. The two men escaped together when US forces attacked the complex, according to NBC.

The Al Qaeda leader was killed by US forces in Pakistan in 2011.  

In the video, a car carrying ul-Haq is seen driving through a checkpoint amid a small crowd. 

At one point the car stops and ul-Haq rolls down the window. Apparent admirers crowd the vehicle’s passenger side, with men taking turns grasping and even kissing the top Al Qaeda associate’s hand. 

Two men take a few steps forward along with the slow-moving car in order to take a [photo] next to ul-Haq.

The car is then followed by a procession of vehicles carrying heavily-armed fighters, some flying the Taliban’s flag.

Asked about ul-Haq’s return to Afghanistan, the Pentagon told DailyMail.com that it does not comment on intelligence matters. 

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment.

His release is part of the withdrawal agreement, which began with President Trump:

A United Nations report from June estimated there were several dozen to 500 Al Qaeda-affiliated individuals, with most ‘core membership’ existing outside of Afghanistan. 

The report also notes that while communication between Al Qaeda and Taliban was infrequent at the time, one UN member state claimed there was ‘regular communication’ related to the Taliban’s peace talks with the Trump administration.

In the February 2020 Doha agreement negotiated by Trump, the Taliban promised it would ‘not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.’

In return the group secured the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners against the wishes of the Afghan government and Trump agreed to withdraw troops by May 1.

But based on the Monday video of ul-Haq’s return the militants seemed to encourage and even celebrate the Islamist figure’s homecoming. 

Ul-Haq had been a member of Hizb-i Islami Khalis, one of seven groups that fought against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan.

Future evacuation of refugees to the UK

Tuesday’s edition of the i paper summed up the situation in Afghanistan perfectly, especially the future of civilian evacuations:

That morning, Dominic Raab gave an interview to Nick Ferrari on LBC (radio).

Guido Fawkes has the story (emphases in the original):

On reports that 7,000 Brits were left behind, Raab told LBC’s Nick Ferrari he couldn’t “give a firm figure”, though he estimates it’s likely in the “low hundreds”. Asked about doubts over his own future, he said it was “just ridiculous“:

“Anyone taking time out during the evacuation…to go and brief, anonymously, newspapers with a totally inaccurate, skewed set of reporting I’m afraid lacks any credibility and is probably engaged in buck-passing themselves.”

I have wondered why British nationals — civilians — would fly into Afghanistan when it is clear the place is highly dangerous.

On August 30, The Times reported on a taxi driver and shopkeeper, both Britons, who lost their lives in the terror bombing last week.

The taxi driver, Sultan Rez, 48, had just received British citizenship and was on his way to rescue his family:

Rez had lived and worked in England as a taxi driver since 2002 and he was given permission by Britain to take his family out of Afghanistan.

He flew to Pakistan on August 23, a week after getting British citizenship. He drove into Afghanistan to collect his wife, Mangala, grandson Muhammad Raza aged 23 months, and Muhammad’s sister Kalsoom, aged five months, from Jalalabad. He took them to Kabul to spend three days awaiting their flight.

Seven of his relatives had permission to leave and the family was being processed close to a gate when the attacker struck.

“He sacrificed his life to bring them back here and paid the ultimate price,” Shakrullah, Rez’s son from north London, told The Sun on Sunday.

My father had gone out there to bring all the family back to the UK. He had been sent an email giving him and all the others special permission to board an evacuation plane to the UK.”

Some of the Rez family survived and were allowed to board their flight, but his father died and a little boy is missing. His toddler grandson is at the French Medical Institute for Mothers and Children, too injured to be airlifted. The little boy’s mother is now in London, hoping for a swift reunion. The Ministry of Defence is aware of the situation.

The shopkeeper, Musa Popal, ran a shop in north London. They went to Afghanistan to visit relatives in June:

Musa Popal, 60, moved to Britain in 1999 and ran the Madeena supermarket in Hendon, north London, for more than 20 years.

He and his wife Saleema, 60, flew to Kandahar in June to visit relatives including a son and daughter who live in Afghanistan. The London couple went to Kabul airport after the Taliban took over.

Popal’s remains were found in a hospital in the Afghan capital. Because of his injuries, his family in Britain were only shown a video of his feet and shoes. He has been buried in Afghanistan in a ceremony attended by hundreds of mourners.

His wife, who saw the suicide bombing from a distance, was uninjured but their grandson Hameed, 14, who was standing with Popal, remains missing.

“I’m really worried about my mum and other siblings being targeted by the Taliban,” the couple’s daughter Zohra said.

My mum, she has no documents now because my dad was holding everything when he died. She and the rest of my family are still in danger, and we still might lose them. And yet we can’t get through to the Foreign Office.

Their number is constantly engaged. We feel completely ignored. But we must get them to safety. I can’t live without them. We need the government’s help.”

Yet, in the video above, Dominic Raab said that the Foreign Office has been answering calls in less than a minute. Perhaps they need more phones and more people to answer them?

The harrowing journey to freedom

In a related article, Charlie Faulkner wrote an excellent report on refugee evacuations for The Times: ‘Salvation at last for passengers on final civilian flight out of Kabul’. Reading it made me feel as if I were there. It is as factual as it is moving.

His article includes an illustration showing the evacuation routes and all the countries involved in this humanitarian effort. In addition to the US and the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand also took part.

Reporting from Kabul, Charlie Faulkner tells of the queues of people waiting for coaches (buses) to take them to the airport, after the terror bombing prevented a previous effort:

The same people, more than 200 of them – families, young and old, educated, poor, wealthy, journalists, activists, artists – regrouped at the meeting point where the five coaches were waiting at 8.30pm to take them into the airport …

People waving paperwork still pleaded for a seat on the bus. “I have German citizenship,” said one man as he showed his documentation. “Please, I beg you, please let my family on the bus,” cried another lady. But this list had been put together and approved days ago; first by the German government, which had granted visas for everyone on the list, and then by the US authorities. It was impossible for further names to be added.

A mother with five young children was resisting being hurried on to a bus; she wasn’t going anywhere until each of her children had a hold of her hands or the straps on her handbag. There have been many stories of families being separated during the chaos at the airport over the past two weeks.

Because of the terror incident, passengers were no longer allowed to carry rucksacks. They had to put all their belongings into plastic bags.

Rerouting people was also a priority to ensure safe passage to the airport. An Australian film-maker, Jordan Bryon, was one of the organisers, working with a German organisation:

… five coaches were organised at a separate location on Thursday, where Jordan Bryon, an Australian film-maker, found himself responsible for overseeing the operation. A German organisation called Kabulluftbrücke, formed of journalists and activists, had made the evacuation possible.

Those in charge had to negotiate with the Taliban along the way. There was also a lot of shooting going on in Kabul.

It was also extremely hot, but the bus doors could not be opened for security reasons:

“The traffic was at a standstill, there was quite a lot of shooting going on. We just realised it was impossible,” said Bryon. “We were sweltering hot because we couldn’t open the doors – there were hundreds of people outside who would just try to force their way on to the coaches if we did. It was hectic, passengers were worried those outside would break the glass windows in their attempts to get on.”

As the traffic prevented Bryon’s group from reaching the airport that day, the coach drivers had to find a place to park for everyone to spend the night on the buses.

The night-time stop allowed stowaways to break into the luggage area of the coaches:

The luggage compartments beneath the coaches were checked. Five stowaways were discovered and removed, and off the convoy went again.

On the way back to the airport the next day, the Taliban forced the coaches to stop to demand that a family be allowed on board. What could one do but say yes:

“I had been so militant about the list but at this point all I could do was welcome them with a smile,” said Bryon.

Stowaways were still getting on board outside of the coaches:

The biggest challenge was keeping the coaches free of anyone not on the list. At one point about 25 people who had somehow sneaked onto the back of one of the vehicles had to be removed.

At another Taliban checkpoint, the coaches were allowed to proceed only if they took ‘a few people’ with Canadian visas. Again, Bryon had to agree to take extra passengers but was surprised to find that ‘a few’ turned out to be 40 people, most of whom didn’t have paperwork after all.

At another checkpoint, the Taliban commander threatened to stop the convoy of coaches, saying that Afghans were no longer allowed to leave the country. Bryon said:

He said everyone needed to stay to promote Sharia law. At which point people got scared and didn’t want to push on. Many went home or back to the hotels they had been staying in.

Around midnight on Saturday, August 28, the road to the airport was suddenly empty. By then, the passengers were tired, hungry and sitting in a stinky atmosphere. The Taliban did not help the situation:

The smell of stale urine wafted from the back of the coach. A Taliban fighter up ahead fired his gun into the air indiscriminately, rattling the windows. The passengers waited nervously to see if the promised Taliban escort – the last hope of reaching the entrance – would materialise.

The Taliban came through for the coaches and the passengers, but the drama did not end there.

Not everyone, even those whose names had been on the official list, were allowed their flight to freedom:

The atmosphere was tense. Quietly they filed off the bus as instructed and formed separate lines of men and women. A total of 189 names were called out from the list, one by one. In a very anticlimactic manner, the man calling the names simply said: “That’s it, that’s all the names.”

A group of about 20 people didn’t make it. Most had never been on the list in the first place, but six had. The reason they didn’t make the final call is unknown.

“My heart sank,” said Bryon. “But there was nothing we could do. The Taliban pushed us back towards the first checkpoint and that was it, it was over.”

Soon after, the plane carrying the five coachloads of passengers thundered down the runway and took to the sky — the final civilian flight, it is thought, out of Afghanistan.

At midnight the airport was officially handed over to the Taliban, and US and UK forces began their exit.

How utterly heartbreaking — and terrifying — for those left behind.

However, the Daily Mail says that evacuation flights are scheduled to continue on August 30:

Flights will continue on Monday – 17 jets are expected to take more than 3,000 people out of Kabul, the majority of whom are Afghan.

————————————————————–

May the good Lord guide the Western coalition out of this disastrous mess.

The short answer is that they think they can work with the Taliban.

Sure. Pull the other one.

American and British troops have left Afghanistan. The countries’ embassies there are now closed.

Yet, they pledged at the weekend that evacuations would continue. How?

British general criticises withdrawal

General Lord Dannatt, who once commanded the British army, criticised the withdrawal, according to the Times on Monday, August 30 (emphases mine):

General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the army, called for an inquiry into the handling of the withdrawal, accusing the government of being “asleep on watch” despite having had months to prepare. He told Times Radio: “We should have done better.”

He accused ministers of putting Afghanistan on the back burner only to find “when the Taliban took over the country in the precipitate fashion in which they did, it fell off the cooker straight on to the kitchen floor”.

The deaths of 457 British military personnel were not in vain, he said, because progress had been made in Afghanistan. He said, however, that “the precipitant decision by Joe Biden to end the operation of all international forces quickly meant that the gains we had made crumbled pretty quickly”.

Meanwhile, the same article said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continues to come under fire for having been on holiday in Crete during the weekend of August 14 and 15. He appeared before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, September 1. I haven’t watched the hearing yet; it can be found here:

Senior government sources predicted that Raab would lose his job in the next reshuffle because of his handling of the crisis. They said the foreign secretary was a “control freak” who struggled to entrust work to officials despite controversy over his decision to stay on holiday in Crete as Kabul fell to the Taliban.

However, Raab’s allies defended him:

insisting that it was “laughable” to blame him alone for the hurried retreat from Afghanistan.

They blamed the Ministry of Defence for failing to anticipate the speed with which Kabul would fall and hit out at the Home Office for failing to finalise details of the Afghan resettlement scheme. The absence of clear criteria was hampering Britain’s ability to negotiate with other countries over refugees, the sources suggested.

The UK government plan to rescue refugees

I do not see how the British plan to rescue more refugees will work in the cold light of day, especially with a terror threat clearly looming.

The Times article says that foreign aid will be part of the plan:

Britain’s key initial demand is that the Taliban allow thousands of refugees safe passage out of Afghanistan but the focus is likely to shift soon to preventing the country from becoming a haven for terrorists, as it was in the late 1990s.

Aid will be used to encourage good behaviour. Ministers see Afghanistan as a first test of their decision to abolish the Department for International Development so that aid could be better aligned with foreign policy goals.

Officials believe that the Taliban see the looming humanitarian crisis as a threat to their legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans and think that western aid will be needed to mitigate it.

Sir Laurie Bristow, Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, thinks the embassy in Kabul can be reopened:

Sir Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, was among those who returned home yesterday. On the runway at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire he promised to reopen an embassy as soon as possible and to “do everything we can to protect the gains of the last 20 years”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is nearly ready to make a deal with the Taliban. Some think that there could be a Taliban embassy in London in future. Good grief:

Warned that the risk of terrorism would increase, he promised to “use every lever we have — political, economic, diplomatic — to help the people of Afghanistan and to protect our own country from harm”.

He hinted yesterday that the Taliban could win diplomatic recognition if they kept terrorism in check and allowed western allies still in Afghanistan to leave. “If the new regime in Kabul wants diplomatic recognition . . . they will have to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave the country, to respect the rights of women and girls, to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming an incubator for global terror.”

His words raise the prospect of a Taliban embassy in London, which officials said would happen only as part of a joint approach with G7 allies after a new government was formed.

The UK government accepts that it will have to deal with a new Afghan government dominated by hardliners and has adopted a carrot-and-stick approach now that troops have left.

International plea for release of Afghans

On Sunday, August 29, in a joint statement, 90 countries asked the Taliban to commit to releasing more Afghan citizens:

Britain was among 90 governments that released a joint statement yesterday saying that they had a “clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that [Afghan allies] can travel to our respective countries”.

The Daily Mail has more on the statement:

The statement said: ‘We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.’

I cannot see that happening, even though I hope it does.

I am not alone:

many senior figures in the West fear the Taliban will fail to live up to the pledge amid concerns the number of Afghans left behind who may be eligible for resettling is actually far higher than initial Government estimates.

Too right. The Taliban will agree to anything then renege.

How evacuation schemes work

There were three evacuation programmes in place in Afghanistan during Britain’s Operation Pitting, which ended at the weekend. Approximately 15,000 people had been evacuated over the past fortnight.

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly MP explained to Sky News how the evacuation schemes worked:

Asked how many people were left behind, Mr Cleverly told Sky News: ‘Well, that’s an impossible number to put a figure on. We had three methods by which, or vehicles by which, people could leave Afghanistan.

‘Obviously British nationals, we have a much better idea of how many British nationals were in AfghanistanThe vast, vast bulk of British nationals have now left Afghanistan.

The Arap scheme, those Afghans, interpreters and others, who had worked directly for us and with us, have their scheme.

But also we extended to Afghans who were at risk of reprisals and there was no set number of people in that third group.’

He admitted that many people were not evacuated:

Mr Cleverly did not deny reports that hundreds of emails sent to the Foreign Office from people trying to get out of the country had been left unopened

He said: ‘Well, you have got to remember that when we extended our evacuation efforts to Afghan nationals we of course received a flood of requests and those were worked through and they will continue to be worked through.

‘But I know my own inbox had a huge number of emails came through, some duplicates, and of course we focused on the people who were at the airport who were being processed and who we felt that we could get out through Kabul airport whilst we still had security of Kabul airport.

‘We will of course continue to work through applications from people who have contacted us, people who are still trying to get out of Afghanistan.’  

Cleverly told Sky News that the UK government is sceptical of the Taliban but is committed to working with them:

‘Well, we have always said, I think the Prime Minister has said very recently, that we will judge the Taliban by their actions,’ he said …

Obviously we are sceptical about those commitments but we will continue working with them to an extent, based on their conduct, to try and facilitate that further evacuation and repatriation effort.’

The American approach

On Sunday, Joe Biden looked at his watch while the coffins of 13 American servicemen from last week’s bombing at Kabul’s airport arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware:

The Daily Mail reported:

President Joe Biden is under fire after appearing to look at his watch just seconds after a salute honoring the return of the 13 US servicemembers killed in Thursday’s ISIS-K suicide bombing in Kabul. 

The president made the unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday morning as the caskets of the 13 service members killed in the attack were brought back to the United States.

He stood in silence, his right hand to his chest, as a succession of flag draped transfer coffins were carried past him from a C-17 Globemaster plane.

But during the ceremony, Biden appears to jerk his left arm up and look down at his watch.

The 13 killed on Thursday were Navy corpsman Max Soviak, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, and Marines Hunter Lopez, Rylee McCollum, David Lee Espinoza, Kareem Nikoui, Jared Schmitz, Daegan Page, Taylor Hoover, Humberto Sanchez, Johanny Rosario, Dylan Merola and Nicole Gee.

Biden’s stupidity rightly attracted a barrage of criticism from military veterans and Republican politicians.

After a US drone strike killed two ISIS-K men, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently co-ordinating international efforts for the days ahead. This began with a virtual meeting on Monday, August 30:

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a virtual meeting to discuss a coordinated approach for the days ahead, as the U.S. completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country.

The meeting will also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the European Union and NATO.  

Biden stuck with his decision to have a full withdrawal by Tuesday, August 31.

US-led evacuation flights took more than 114,000 people out of Afghanistan. Troops and diplomats followed.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan:

pledged the US ‘will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident’ after Tuesday, as well as for ‘those Afghans who helped us’.

Air strikes will continue:

He said the US would continue strikes against IS and consider ‘other operations to go after these guys, to get them and to take them off the battlefield’

He added: ‘We will continue to bring the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan to make sure they do not represent a threat to the United States.’ 

There are no plans to reopen the embassy in Kabul, although there are plans for some diplomats to be present:

The administration’s plan ‘is not to have an ongoing embassy presence in Afghanistan’, Mr Sullivan said. 

‘But we will have means and mechanisms of having diplomats on the ground there, be able to continue to process out these applicants, be able to facilitate the passage of other people who want to leave Afghanistan.’ 

————————————————

I will be most interested to see how American and British plans work out. I cannot see the feasibility at the moment.

Following on from yesterday’s post about Britain’s presence in Afghanistan, today’s entry has more.

On Tuesday, August 17, Strategic Culture posted ‘Afghanistan: Whatever the Future Brings, One Thing Is for Sure, Britain and the U.S. Should Stay Out’.

While I disagree with the general premise, the article did have interesting historical information about the UK’s involvement in Iraq and Libya based on questionable intelligence by a security chief who promoted the Russian dossier nonsense during the 2016 US presidential election. Emphases mine below:

All the blood and treasure spent, yes that is a tragedy, but not because of how it is ending, but rather how the War on Terror was started.

That is, that the Iraq and Libya wars were both based off of cooked British intelligence, which resulted in the attempt by the British people to prosecute Tony Blair as a war criminal for his direct role in causing British and U.S. troops to enter an illegal war with Iraq. This prosecution was later blocked by the British High Court claiming that there is no crime of aggression in English law under which the former PM could be charged. It seems there is no law against being a war criminal in Britain.

And it was none other than MI6 chief (1999-2004) Sir Richard Dearlove who oversaw and stood by the fraudulent intelligence on Iraq stating they bought uranium from Niger to build a nuclear weapon, the very same Sir Richard Dearlove who promoted the Christopher Steele dossier as something “credible” to American intelligence.

In addition, the Libyan invasion of 2011 was found to be unlawfully instigated by Britain. In a report published by the British Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2016, it was concluded that it was “the UK and France in March 2011 which led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi”. The report concluded that the Libyan intervention was based on false pretence provided by British Intelligence and recklessly promoted by the British government. This is the real reason why David Cameron stepped down.

This is what caused the United States to enter both wars, due to, what has now been officially acknowledged as fraudulent or deliberately misleading evidence that was supplied by British intelligence.

Now onto Afghanistan. After the horrifying weekend of August 14 and 15, Britain’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, tried to enlist NATO allies’ help to fill the gap from Joe Biden’s withdrawal:

UK Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, has been actively trying to call on NATO allies to join a British-led military coalition to re-enter Afghanistan upon the U.S. departure! Wallace states in an interview with Daily Mail:

I did try talking to NATO nations, but they were not interested, nearly all of them…We tried a number of like-minded nations. Some said they were keen, but their parliaments weren’t. It became apparent pretty quickly that without the U.S. as the framework nation it had been, these options were closed off…All of us were saddened, from the prime minister (Boris Johnson) down, about all the blood and treasure that had been spent, that this was how it was ending.

This has left the UK in a tailspin, although, as of August 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain would remain in Afghanistan to complete evacuation efforts.

However, some of our brightest commentators are fumbling to come up with reasonable solutions to America’s withdrawal. Andrew Neil said that we should ask France to partner with us. Hmm:

Meanwhile, Biden acts as if everything is fine.

On August 20, he said that the US gave the Afghans ‘all the tools’ they need. This is the tally over the past 20 years:

Nigel Farage has disparaged Biden in recent days:

It’s not so much the withdrawal itself but how it is being done that is the worry. Troops should be the last to leave:

As if that is not bad enough, the Biden administration has supplied the Taliban with the names of people who helped the US effort. One could not make this up:

Johnny Mercer MP (Con), himself a veteran, posted the video:

But, then, according to his fellow Conservative MP, Tom Tugendhat, the British did the same thing. How is this even possible?

The Times article says:

Foreign Office staff left documents with the contact details of Afghans working for them as well as the CVs of locals applying for jobs scattered on the ground at the British embassy compound in Kabul that has been seized by the Taliban.

The papers identifying seven Afghans were found by The Times on Tuesday as Taliban fighters patrolled the embassy. Phone calls to the numbers on the documents revealed that some Afghan employees and their families remained stranded on the wrong side of the airport perimeter wall days after their details were left in the dirt in the haste of the embassy’s evacuation on August 15.

The fate of Afghans who worked alongside western diplomats and troops, and who may face reprisals after being left behind, has become an emblem of the West’s retreat from Afghanistan.

Such was the British surprise at the speed of the capture of Kabul that the embassy’s evacuation protocols, necessitating the shredding and destruction of all data that could compromise local Afghan staff, their families or potential employees, appear to have broken down.

The article mentions Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was on holiday in Crete on August 14 and 15. He was supposed to make an important phone call, which he delegated to Lord Goldsmith. On the face of it, that wasn’t a bad idea, because Goldsmith is close to Carrie Johnson and could have had direct access to Boris through her. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the phone call was never made. I’m still not sure whether it was as crucial as the media make it out to be, because the media are anti-Boris anyway. More will emerge in the weeks to come, but this is what we know for now:

The discovery of the documents comes after Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, rejected a request to speak with his Afghan counterpart to discuss the evacuation of interpreters who worked for Britain two days before the fall of Kabul. It suggests that staff at the British embassy were careless with the lives of Afghan employees in the rush to save their own.

Labour now have a real issue with which to attack the Conservatives:

Labour said foreign secretary Dominic Raab has “serious questions to answer” and that the destruction of sensitive materials should have been a “top priority”. Lisa Nandy, his opposite number, called on the government to “urgently assess” the individuals who may have been identified by the breach and whether operations may have been compromised. The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee is now set to launch an inquiry.

I hope that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is committed to sorting this out:

Reacting to the revelations this morning, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said the blunder was “not good enough” and would be investigated. Wallace said that the prime minister “will be asking some questions” about how the documents came to be left on the ground.

Wallace gave an interview to Sky News Friday morning. Contrary to what the British public understood yesterday from Boris about the evacuation efforts continuing, they will be coming to a close shortly, possibly by the time you read this:

Tom Tugendhat chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, so my expectations for the upcoming inquiry into this security breach are high:

Tugendhat spoke about the American withdrawal:

Sorry, but the withdrawal debacle is a military defeat.

I feel very sorry for British — and American — troops. They are still heroes, as Johnny Mercer, who served in Afghanistan, says:

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel visited a refugee centre:

She is preparing the British public. We will be taking in 20,000 or 25,000 Afghan refugees over the next five years. However, the British are also concerned about the number of illegal immigrants coming in from France across the English Channel:

Nigel Farage urges caution over the refugee programme:

The Daily Mail article says that Ben Wallace was satisfied that the man on the ‘no fly’ list was not a threat. However, the Mail states that some security checks have been taking place once the military plane is in the air:

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today insisted security checks at Kabul airport are working after it emerged a person banned from Britain under a ‘no-fly list’ was able to travel to the UK as part of the Afghanistan airlift. 

In a potential security breach, the individual was cleared to board an RAF plane before checks in mid-air revealed they were barred from coming to this country.

In a sign of the challenges facing British soldiers at the airport – who are already on high alert amid fears of terror attacks – it emerged last night that a further four people on the no-fly list tried to board mercy flights to the UK, but were stopped before the planes took off.

Mr Wallace defended the security checks, telling Sky News: ‘The watch list, or the no-fly list, pinged and the individual was identified so that is a plus side that it worked.

‘I wouldn’t be as alarmed as some of the media headlines are about this individual and I would also take some comfort from this process is working and flagging people.’

It came amid fears that more than 1,000 heroic Afghan translators, staff and their families could be left behind by the frantic evacuation operation.

Ministers have outlined plans to extract a further 6,000 UK nationals and eligible Afghans, but sources said there were 7,000 who Britain would ideally like to rescue.   

The Home Office said yesterday a ‘security assessment’ of the individual who arrived in the UK revealed they were no longer considered a threat by the security or law enforcement agencies. Sources said there would be no further action taken against the person, whose nationality is unclear.

But the development raised concerns over security relating to the airlift.

That was the state of play on August 23.

On August 26, another report emerged, this time from The Telegraph. The British public will not find this reassuring:

The Twitter thread received comments of astonishment and concern, such as these:

The men coming across the English Channel are also unlikely to have their papers, creating one terrible mess in the months and years to come.

In closing, today’s main story in the UK is that the British evacuation in Afghanistan will end this weekend:

Ben Wallace always maintained that some Afghans would be left behind. Where possible, more will be airlifted:

What a terrible ending after 20 years.

Parliament returns in early September. Both Houses will have a lot of questions for the Government.

It’s hard to know whether the British government was truly surprised by the fall of Afghanistan, particularly Kabul, 11 days ago.

On Thursday, August 19, Stuart Crawford, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Tank Regiment, wrote an excellent analysis for The Scotsman: ‘Afghanistan fell to Taliban because West underestimated its enemy and lacked commitment’.

His article begins with a short précis of British involvement in the country (emphases mine, unless otherwise stated):

We British are no strangers to disasters in Afghanistan. In past centuries, Britain fought three wars there with the dual purposes of expanding its control from its Empire base in India and opposing Russian influence there, the latter part of the so-called “Great Game”.

None of them ended satisfactorily. At the end of the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, Afghanistan was independent, the British withdrew, and the Afghans entered a period of special relationship with Soviet Russia.

Eventually that relationship soured too, leading to the Soviet invasion in 1979. The Russians left ten years later with their tails between their legs having suffered 15,000 dead. Not for nothing is Afghanistan known as the graveyard of foreign armies.

This brings us to the present day:

And now we are witnessing the end of yet another military adventure, this time the US-led Nato invasion in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. What sets this newest withdrawal apart from the others, however, is the speed at which the Afghan government has collapsed.

Things looked good nearly 20 years ago, three months after US and UK forces invaded Afghanistan:

… the western powers entered Afghanistan in 2001 and drove the Taliban from power thereby denying al-Qaeda a safe base of operations there. It only took three months, with many Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives fleeing across the border into Pakistan.

However, Bush II switched priorities to Iraq whilst maintaining a presence in Afghanistan, as counterterrorism expert Malcolm Nance recently explained to talkRADIO.

Stuart Crawford recounts the losses by the US and the UK during the fruitless adventure of trying to turn Afghanistan into a Western-style nation:

Over the next 20 years, the US and its allies poured billions of dollars into military operations to counter a resurgent Taliban and into reconstruction and civil aid projects. When the main fighting died down in 2014, the Americans had lost roughly 2,500 servicemen and women, the UK around 450, plus many other casualties from allied militaries. Estimated losses for the Afghan security forces are approximately 69,000.

Crawford outlines the reasons for the West’s failure:

First and foremost, the West was naïve in assuming that the Afghan people would welcome a western-style liberal democracy

Next, we made the unforgivable sin – in military circles – of underestimating the enemy. After the rapid successes against the Taliban in 2001, it was all too easy to dismiss them as “a bunch of blokes in open-toes sandals on motorbikes”, but they were and are good at what they do.

They are still there and we are leaving.

Also, what we probably didn’t understand or chose to ignore is the long-established Afghan practice of negotiated arrangements between opposing forces in conflict, whereby there are agreements not to attack or interfere with your enemy.

Finally, it was an overall tale of too few resources committed too late by the West. After the initial invasion in 2001, little attention was paid to nation building for the next five years. When focus was shifted to it, the horse had already bolted. We were always playing catch up from then on in.

It also has to be said that, despite the impressive numbers of troops deployed during the height of the military campaign, they were always too few for the task in hand. Some pretty poor tactical decisions were taken on the ground, not least by the British army in Helmand.

When British troops were allocated Helmand in 2006, their intended role was to provide safety and security for various reconstruction projects. But their arrival there provoked a furious reaction from a reconstituted Taliban. Our soldiers found themselves in very different circumstances to what they expected.

What is difficult for Westerners to understand is how complicated and fluid Afghan alliances are internally. They do not think in terms of good guys and bad guys. Crawford writes of:

a network of tribal and kinship ties which sometimes saw members of the same family supplying soldiers to both sides. This to some extent guaranteed some element of safety and amnesty for the vanquished.

Part of the reason, therefore, that the Afghan government forces have collapsed so quickly – after, it has to be said, fighting hard for many years with us in support – is that such arrangements have been in place for many years.

Corruption, lack of resources, and poor leadership added to the mix, and many Afghans must have wondered exactly what they were fighting for. The Taliban, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were fighting for and sought to achieve.

In Helmand province, the British were spread too thinly and ended up needing help from the Americans:

only 9,700 troops were expected to secure an area of over 58,500 square kilometres containing over 1,000 villages and settlements with a population of over 1.5 million inhabitants. It was a hopeless task, doomed to failure from them outset.

For reasons never properly explained, the decision was taken to spread British troops across 137 bases and checkpoints, dispersing forces and literally making them hostage to fortune as the Taliban were attracted to attack these small, isolated outposts as bees are to honey.

After much bravery and heroism against a more numerous foe, and despite the advantages of superior technology and air power, the British army had to be rescued by the Americans. This military defeat, added to the similar debacle in Basra in Iraq, did much to tarnish the British army’s hard-won reputation.

Even worse, the United States has been defeated:

The biggest takeaway from the whole Afghan affair, however, is that potential future adversaries now know how to defeat the USA.

Today, the airport in Kabul was attacked. The incident killed at least 60 people, including 12 American soldiers. Later in the afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a COBRA meeting; the British evacuation efforts will continue.

Earlier on, James Heappey (pictured below), Britain’s Minister for the Armed Forces, warned of an attack on the airport:

The news has not been well received by Guido Fawkes’s readers. The last two comments follow from Guido’s thread about the airport in Kabul, which ends with this (emphasis in the original):

Despite these stark warnings, crowds of people remain outside of Kabul airport waiting to be processed. Britain has now evacuated over 11,000 Afghans with a suspected 400 people left to process. The countdown continues despite the ordered evacuation…

I have edited the spelling and grammar in the following comments.

Here’s the first one:

UK caught well and truly with their pants down, and why, because they believed Biden would never be as stupid as he turned out to be. As the UK media, indeed the Western media, decried Trump at every opportunity, they praised Biden as the sensible, reliable face of American politics, now they scramble around like floundering fish trying to defend his mass genocidal decision to leave Afghanistan in the way he did. They would rather blame everyone else than accept they got it wrong. Well, the bloodshed that’s about to happen will be on their hands as much as it is on Sleepy Joe’s. Meanwhile Europe is bracing itself for another mass flooding of refugees. WE have to seriously consider is America an ally to NATO or not.

This is the second:

“Terrorist Attack Imminent……” What absolute tosh, why would the Taliban carry out an attack at Kabul Airport at all? They have what they want, western powers scuttling out of Afghanistan!.

What the politicos do not want is pictures showing 1000s of Afghans ‘stranded’ at the airport as the last flights leave so what better way to prevent this than by warning them to stay away form the airport area by suggesting “a terrorist attack is imminent….”

It is hard to disagree with either of those analyses.

On Wednesday, August 25, Professor Paul Cornish, who has visited Afghanistan twice during the past 20 years, wrote an article for Cityforum: ‘The Rout of Kabul’.

He has high praise for James Heappey, much less for successive British governments:

In the UK, with one or two notable exceptions such as James Heappey, the Minister for the Armed Forces, who manages to combine a sense of empathy with honest political realism and a soldier’s instincts for problem solving, we have had the embarrassing spectacle of high-level politicians, public officials and very senior military officers showing just how disconnected they are from this looming strategic reality. Keen to convince the media and the electorate that this is a temporary politico-military malfunction, from which ‘lessons will be learned’ before the normal service of strategic mastery is resumed, we are assured repeatedly that the Taliban surge was unexpected and unpredictable. Really? Ten years ago, following the second of two visits to Afghanistan, I made the following observation at a conference: ‘withdrawal – whenever it happens – should be seen not simply as the desperate ending of the intervention but as the most complex and dangerous part of the intervention. If this is mishandled or rushed, then we might be talking in five years’ time not just of the resurgence of some very unpleasant extremist and criminal groups, but of a regional conflagration.’ My sense of foreboding was premature by five years but if a visiting academic/think tank analyst could see things in this way then plenty of others, in more influential positions, will have come to a similar conclusion. And if the capture of Kabul was indeed so unexpected, why was there not only a ‘Plan A’ for the evacuation but also a ‘Plan B’? Was the capitulation unexpected, or were we preparing for it? As well as presenting a wholly confused, if not disingenuous analysis, the UK’s strategic leadership has also demonstrated an unbeatably inappropriate choice of actions and words: the Foreign Secretary remaining determinedly glued (some have alleged) to a sunbed in Crete while the crisis grew; or the UK Chief of Defence Staff insisting that the Taliban, an implacable enemy of Britain’s armed forces for many years, ‘has changed’ and that British troops are now ‘happy to collaborate’ with them.

He discusses the toxic mix of the Taliban, terror, Pakistan and China, concluding with this on the West’s failure in Afghanistan:

In this dismal context, uncomfortable questions must be asked about the West’s reputation as a global strategic actor, about its ‘strategic ambition’ and about the relevance of its vision for the world. Both the US and the UK have presented themselves as expert in the high strategic art of combining ‘hard power’ (i.e., the power of coercion and compulsion) with ‘soft power’ (i.e., the power of attraction and persuasion). Does the Rout of Kabul suggest that either of these is functioning as it should, or is as convincing as is claimed? In the UK, the March 2021 review of national security and defence offered a vision of a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’, finally achieving its destiny as a ‘force for good in the world’, a ‘soft power superpower’, and a country with globally deployable ‘hard power’. Broadly similar rhetoric was heard at the G7 and NATO summits in June 2021. After Kabul, are any of these promises, offers and assurances convincing? And who would rely upon them? Bells that ring as hollow as this should probably not be rung – at least not in public.

Returning to the state of play in Kabul, he says:

Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, August 2021: not a good look for the West, its values, its capability, its staying power, its leadership and their judgement. And it could get worse if the West’s strategic leadership insist that Kabul was a mere technical hitch, unwilling or unable to confront their mistakes and the gravity of what has taken place, and refusing to acknowledge that the West, and all that it stands for, is in deep trouble as a result.

I could not agree more.

There is currently much speculation in Britain and the United States as whose heads should roll over this debacle.

The British media want Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to resign because he did not return sooner from his holiday in Crete to ring an Afghan minister of state. That telephone call, which never took place, would not have made much difference to the final outcome. Events unfolded quickly on the weekend of August 14 and 15.

Some Americans want Joe Biden to stand down in favour of Kamala Harris, despite her poor popularity ratings. However, that would not achieve anything much, either.

The damage is done. It will take decades to recover from this, not only politically but also socially.

More to follow tomorrow on Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Ian Williams, a former foreign correspondent in Britain and the US as well as the author of Every Breath You Take: China’s New Tyranny, wrote an article for The Spectator: ‘China’s Great Game in Afghanistan’, which the magazine posted on August 22.

Although China will have to deal with the Taliban, with whom they have been negotiating, Joe Biden’s withdrawal of troops will leave the door wide open for further expansion of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI would be able to extend from China through Afghanistan directly to a BRI country, Pakistan.

Furthermore, last week, I wrote about China’s plans for global expansion, with which a more established presence in Afghanistan will certainly help, especially with regard to minerals such as lithium and copper.

Ian Williams’s article explains what could happen with a volatile mix of China, Pakistan and the Taliban (emphases mine):

Neighbouring Pakistan is the biggest recipient of China’s BRI funds – it has received an estimated £45 billion splashed on roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure. Chinese diplomats talk of Afghanistan becoming an extension of this, with Pakistan also acting as a political conduit to the Taliban. Islamabad was the group’s main backer when they were last in power, from 1996 to 2001, and harboured its leaders when out of power. But Islamabad’s influence over the Taliban is often exaggerated, and Pakistan itself has been plagued by religious extremism and occasional violence. Last month, nine Chinese engineers working on a dam project were killed in a bus explosion in the Kohistan district of Pakistan.

Beijing fears instability on its doorstep more than anything else. Ironically, it has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the stabilising presence of the US and its allies. Chaos in Afghanistan will threaten its projects in Pakistan and other central Asian states. It also fears a spill-over of radicalism into Xinjiang province, which shares a narrow border with Afghanistan, and where the repression of the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities has been labelled as genocide by the United States and many other western politicians. Beijing has reportedly sought assurances from the Taliban that they will cut ties with the East Turkistan Liberation Movement (ETLM), which Beijing blames for attacks in Xinjiang (which the Uyghurs call East Turkistan).

While Uyghur militants have appeared in Afghanistan, most independent observers believe their number and influence is exaggerated by Beijing, which uses a very wide definition of terrorism to justify its clampdown. That said, it is not unreasonable to assume the Taliban takeover will inspire opposition – even armed resistance – to oppressive Chinese rule in Xinjiang. After all, the Taliban are a bunch of militant Islamists, and Beijing’s actions across their shared border constitute an attempt to eradicate the culture and religion of an entire Muslim ethnic group and turn them into obedient Chinese citizens – the most comprehensive assault on Islam in the world today. Piles of BRI dollars have blinded Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan to that reality, but even the most pragmatic of Taliban might not so easily be bought off.

However, it would appear that China, whilst cautious, has a plan to counter potential terror, including:

a hastily arranged joint ‘anti-terrorism exercise’ in neighbouring Tajikistan, which shares an 835-mile border with Afghanistan. Chinese and Tajik forces took to the hills outside the capital Dushanbe, while in a letter to his Tajik counterpart China’s minster of public security said, ‘The current international situation is changing and the regional counterterrorism situation is not optimistic.’

Also:

it does raise the question of whether chaos in Afghanistan could lead to the involvement of Chinese security forces there and in the region more broadly. In some ways this is already happening – the Tajikistan exercises are the latest example of this. Beijing already deploys what have been described as private security contractors to protect projects in Pakistan, although these groups are far more closely linked to the state than is the case with western contractors.

One cannot help but think of last year’s reports on Joe and Hunter Biden’s previous involvement with China. Did that involvement inform Joe’s precipitous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan or was it just incompetence?

In any event, it could signal the decline of the United States as a superpower, just as the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 put paid to its superpower status. I truly hope that I am wrong with that assessment.

On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, a retired CIA man, Douglas London, wrote an article for Just Security: ‘CIA’s Former Counterterrorism Chief for the Region: Afghanistan, Not An Intelligence Failure — Something Much Worse’:

Douglas London is that former counterterrorism chief. He worked for the CIA for 34 years. Nowadays, he teaches at Georgetown University, is a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute and is author of the book The Recruiter, which details the changes in the CIA post-9/11.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Until his retirement in 2019, he was responsible for preparing security assessments for President Trump about Afghanistan. He volunteered in the same capacity for then-candidate Joe Biden.

Withdrawal — how and when?

He writes that the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has long been predicated with ‘what-if’ scenarios (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

The U.S. Intelligence Community assessed Afghanistan’s fortunes according to various scenarios and conditions and depending on the multiple policy alternatives from which the president could choose. So, was it 30 days from withdrawal to collapse? 60? 18 months? Actually, it was all of the above, the projections aligning with the various “what ifs.”  Ultimately, it was assessed, Afghan forces might capitulate within days under the circumstances we witnessed, in projections highlighted to Trump officials and future Biden officials alike.

He says that Biden and Trump viewed withdrawal differently, citing Biden’s speech of August 16 (emphases mine):

In his prepared remarks on Monday, President Biden stated, “But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” That’s misleading at best. The CIA anticipated it as a possible scenario.

By early 2018, it was clear President Trump wanted out of Afghanistan regardless of the alarming outcomes the intelligence community cautioned. But he likewise did not want to preside over the nightmarish scenes we’ve witnessed. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the principal architect of America’s engagement with the Taliban that culminated with the catastrophic February 2020 withdrawal agreement, terms intended to get the president through the coming elections. Pompeo championed the plan despite the intelligence community’s caution that its two key objectives– securing the Taliban’s commitment to break with al-Qa’ida and pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict — were highly unlikely.

Douglas London outlines the various scenarios:

Scenarios for an orderly withdrawal ranged from those in which the United States retained roughly 5,000 troops and most of the existing forward military and intelligence operating bases, to what was determined to be the minimum presence of around 2,500 troops maintaining the larger bases in greater Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Khost, as well as the infrastructure to support the bases we would turn over to Afghan partners. The larger of these two options was judged more likely to prevent Afghanistan’s collapse for 1-2 years and still provide for a degree of continued U.S. counterterrorism pressure; the smaller footprint was more difficult to assess but allowed flexibility for the United States to increase or further reduce its presence should circumstances rapidly deteriorate. (It would be valuable if commentators and news coverage included a greater appreciation of how such contingency-based assessments work rather than conflating assessments.)

Initially, even a “Kabul only” option included the retention of the sprawling U.S. Bagram Air Base and other intelligence facilities in the greater capital area through which the United States could project force, maintain essential logistical, intelligence and medical support to Afghan operated bases, and retain some technical intelligence collection and counterterrorist capability across the country. But without any U.S. military and intelligence presence beyond the Embassy in Kabul, faced with a Taliban military and propaganda offensive, and undermined by Ghani’s fractious relationship with his own national political partners, the intelligence community warned the government could dissolve in days. And so it went.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a questionable special representative

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was America’s special representative during the Trump administration’s negotiations.

In 2018, he was a private citizen who had contacts with a number of Afghans. Douglas London said that the intelligence community did not trust him because he was:

dabbling on his own in 2018 with a variety of dubious Afghan interlocutors against whom the intelligence community warned, trying opportunistically to get “back inside.” Undaunted, his end around to Pompeo and the White House pledging to secure the deal Trump needed which the president’s own intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals claimed was not possible absent a position of greater strength, was enthusiastically received. Our impression was that Khalilzad was angling to be Trump’s Secretary of State in a new administration, were he to win, and would essentially do or say what he was told to secure his future by pleasing the mercurial president, including his steady compromise of whatever leverage the United States had to incentivize Taliban compromises.

Because the withdrawal plan was popular with voters in 2020, the Biden camp also endorsed it:

Moreover, from my perspective, they appeared to believe that negative consequences would be at least largely owned by Trump, the GOP, and Khalilzad, whose being left in place, intentionally or not, allowed him to serve even more so as a fall guy. For the candidate, who had long advocated withdrawal, the outcome was, as it had been with Trump, a foregone conclusion despite what many among his counterterrorism advisors counselled. President Biden himself has said as much in terms of his mind being made up.

There was a rather naïve confidence among Biden’s more influential foreign policy advisors that the Taliban’s best interests were served by adhering to the agreement’s main points. Doing so, they argued, would guarantee the U.S. withdrawal, and leave room for more constructive engagement, possibly even aid, should the Taliban come to power.

The Taliban’s PR offensive

Meanwhile, the Taliban were becoming more aware of the importance of a PR offensive aimed at the West:

The Taliban learned a great deal about the utility of PR since 2001, and maximized their access to Western media as highlighted by Taliban deputy and Haqqani Taliban Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani’s apparently ghost written New York Times OpEd. The reality, of course, as the intelligence community long maintained, was that the Taliban’s control over the country was predicated on isolation from the rest of the world, rather than integration. International recognition, global financial access, and foreign aid were not going to influence how the Taliban would rule.

Also:

Momentum the Taliban needed to secure their adversaries’ cooperation was facilitated by a robust propaganda machine that, in many instances, successfully manipulated the media into positive, disproportional coverage from the outset of their offensive in casting their conquest as inevitable. Neither the Afghan government nor the United States could ever effectively counter the Taliban’s persistent and savvy media efforts given the need to protect sources and methods, legal restraints, and an unfortunate lack in investment and imagination.

For Afghan politicians, money talks

Greasing palms is part of Afghan life among those in power locally and regionally. Money can also determine one’s political alliances, which can be fluid:

U.S. policy makers were also cautioned that the broad coalition of Afghan politicians, warlords and military leaders across the country benefiting from the money and power that came with a sustained U.S. presence were likely to lose confidence and hedge their bets were U.S. military forces and intelligence personnel to withdraw. Further, that President Ashraf Ghani’s stubborn resistance to the Afghan political practice of buying support and his dismantling of the warlords’ private armies would weaken their incentives to support the government. Switching sides for a better deal or to fight another day is a hallmark of Afghan history. And U.S. policy to impose an American blueprint for a strong central government and integrated national army served only to enable Ghani’s disastrous and uncompromising stewardship.

On that topic, Britain’s talkRADIO has been interviewing another seasoned American counterintelligence specialist, Malcolm Nance, who said that, over the past year at least, the Taliban were co-opting other Afghans, including those from the country’s Western-backed army.

He said that it did not have to be that way, since he went into Afghanistan in November 2001. The US could have done the job in short order, had Bush II not switched priorities to Iraq:

Keeping the money aspect in mind, Douglas London describes how the 2021 debacle unfolded. Al Qa’ida also played a part:

The clock began to accelerate when US military and intelligence elements withdrew from Kandahar on May 13, and thereafter closed remaining forward operating bases and “lily pads,” the term used for temporary staging areas under U.S. or coalition control. By the time Bagram was closed on July 1, the United States and NATO had also departed Herat, Mazar I Sharif, Jalalabad, Khost and other locations I am not at liberty to name. The Taliban was moving in even as we were packing up. They were quite likely joined by the many al-Qa’ida members (some of whom had enjoyed Iranian sanctuary),-if not direct operational support, augmented further by recently released comrades the Taliban set free from Afghan detention at Bagram and elsewhere.

Policy makers were also aware of the Taliban’s effective use of a parallel “shadow government” structure maintained since losing power that provided for reliable lines of communication with local elders across the provinces, as well as government authorities, often owing to shared family or clan connections. To an American it might be surprising, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for an Afghan military commander or police chief to be in regular contact even with those faced daily in combat.

The Taliban was thus well positioned to negotiate and buy rather than fight their way to successive conquests, itself an Afghan tradition. Moreover, the Taliban was prepared to quickly rule and provide services in the territories coming under its control. And by prioritizing the periphery to secure borders and the lines of communication required to sustain an insurgency, striking first from where they were defeated in 2001, the Taliban clearly learned from history, whereas we still have not. But where did the money come from to finance this campaign?

Persuading low level government fighters and functionaries to turnover their weapons and abandon their posts was well within the Taliban’s means, but it was undoubtedly more expensive securing the cooperation of senior officials with the authority to surrender provincial capitals. Layer on that the need to pay the surge of their own fighters, many of them essentially part-time and seasonal. Payroll and care for the families of fighters killed and wounded is often the greatest expense for the Taliban and its terrorist partner groups, and in Afghanistan, likewise the most important incentive to attract fighters.

Where Taliban money comes from

The Taliban finance themselves from a variety of sources, from drug trafficking to donations from other foreign countries:

The Taliban’s finances are complicated, more so by a structure which is not monolithic, and heavily dependent on the vast international criminal network operated by the Haqqani Taliban Network in the East, and somewhat autonomous regional commanders in the West. Revenues are variously drawn from taxes imposed on locals, narcotics trafficking, foreign donations-largely from Arab Gulf countries, real estate (some of which is abroad), the extortion of mining companies operating in areas under their control–many of which are Chinese government parastatals, and other foreign governments. Pakistan has long been a principal backer, but Russia and Iran increased their investments to court the group in recent years. Moreover, both benefited decidedly from the Taliban’s swift, bloodless conquest that expeditiously purged and humiliated the United States, and minimized what might have been a violent, prolonged fight that increased regional instability and the flow of refugees.

Dichotomy between US Department of Defense and CIA

Douglas London noted the disparity of opinion between the Department of Defense and the CIA:

in grading their own homework, the U.S. defense establishment only exacerbated the problem. While it’s little surprise the Department of Defense was unwilling to objectively evaluate the resolve and capacity of those they trained, equipped, and advised to resist a forthcoming Taliban offensive, their rose-colored depictions of achievement over 20 years flew in the face of reality, and was consistently challenged by the CIA’s more gloomy, albeit realistic projections.

Conclusion

He concludes:

there was no intelligence failure by the agency in warning either Trump or Biden as to how events would play out. Operating in the shadows and “supporting the White House” will prevent the intelligence community from publicly defending itself. But the failure was not due to any lack of warning, but rather the hubris and political risk calculus of decision makers whose choices are too often made in their personal and political interest or with pre-committed policy choices, rather than influenced by (sometimes inconvenient) intelligence assessments and the full interests of the country.

It is difficult to see how the Afghanistan debacle can ever be rectified now, especially after 20 years.

As to what happens going forward, unfortunately, the grim possibilities are endless.

More on Afghanistan tomorrow.

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