See update at the bottom. – J.E.
And there it is, the image so many have been waiting for.
— Asad Ugas (@AsadUgas) August 15, 2021
It isn’t clear that anyone is actually being loaded onto the helicopters on the roof. I doubt it: the embassy compound is still secure, and loading is probably taking place on the ground.
At the same time, the news has broken in the last half hour that Taliban are entering Kabul from all directions.
BREAKING: Three Afghan officials have confirmed that Taliban militants have entered the outskirts of the capital city Kabul.
It is the last major city that has not yet fallen to the Taliban.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 15, 2021
The Taliban enter Afghan capital Kabul “from all sides”, meeting little resistance, reports say https://t.co/QjKBk0k8zN
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) August 15, 2021
The Taliban apparently don’t expect a big pitched battle with Afghan National Army troops. For good reason, it appears, given the report that Afghan government buildings are being evacuated as this goes to post.
BREAKING: Government buildings in Kabul being evacuated as Taliban press through.
— Harun Najafizada (@HNajafizada) August 15, 2021
President Biden announced on Saturday that he would be deploying about 5,000 troops into Kabul, more than the 3,000 initially reported on Friday. Some number of the 3,000 — Marines and Army to protect the embassy, airport, and surface routes between the two — are already in Kabul.
The additional troops are reportedly to come from the theater reserve in Kuwait. At this point, however, with the Taliban already in Kabul, it’s not clear that U.S. forces will find much in the city to hold securely. It appears to be too late for that. They could land at Hamid Karzai International airport, but what they would do after that is not obvious.
For more backstory and an update on the U.S. effort to get another Central Asian nation to host us so we can go after terrorists in Afghanistan, see here. Note further than the Taliban have already banned the coronavirus vaccines in parts of Afghanistan. It appears their impending takeover will not have health as a priority.
UPDATE: Regarding Taliban entry into Kabul, a highly reliable Twitter source says the Taliban observed in the city are from Taliban cells that were already there undercover.
IMAGES from Kabul city that purportedly show Taliban in some areas are Taliban cells and supporters who were already present in Kabul undercover, I'm told by two sources. The main TB forces are still outside the city. #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/JrucmahSnU
— FJ (@Natsecjeff) August 15, 2021
The main Taliban force is still outside the city, he says.
Important point, from my perspective: I haven’t suggested the Taliban would be entering the city to try to attack foreign embassies. I don’t see an upside to that for the Taliban. However, I do think they win big by beating the U.S. reinforcements to Kabul.
The additional troops above and beyond what has already arrived from the original 3,000 plus-up are not there yet. They were reportedly to be coming from Kuwait. (Initially I saw that the brigade combat team from Fort Bragg, which was to head to Kuwait to boost the theater reserve, would actually deploy directly to Kabul instead. However, the WSJ report on the latest figure of 5,000 additional troops said the extra ones, beyond the 3,000, would be coming “from Kuwait.”)
We don’t know how many of the 3,000 previewed on Friday are already in Kabul. But whether the Taliban have begun to enter Kabul or not, the point remains that they would have a distinct advantage in deterring U.S. force operations around the city if they get into town before we do. They’d be likely to deter us without firing a shot: once they’re there in significant numbers, they can increase chaos and hold a gun to the Afghan population’s head. That puts them in position to make sure the surrender of the Ghani government (whatever name they actually give it) goes their — the Taliban’s — way.