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Tag: taliban

Facebook Permits Racist Attacks On Afghan Refugees

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

As Afghan refugees flee the country following the Taliban takeover, xenophobic narratives are spreading widely on Facebook. Despite the platforms' claim to "prohibit the use of harmful stereotypes" and to protect refugees from "the most severe attacks," racist rhetoric that seemingly violates Facebook's policy is rampant in both public and private groups.

These attacks on Afghan refugees come amid the American military's withdrawal from the country and the Taliban's rapid advance, which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis for more than half a million people displaced from their homes since January. With the United States' final withdrawal from the country completed on August 31, numbers show that "approximately 116,700 people have been airlifted out of Afghanistan" in recent weeks, many of whom allied with the United States over the previous two decades of war.

Now, as the U.S. occupation officially ends, users have taken to Facebook to promote xenophobic conspiracy theories and racist stereotypes about Afghan refugees as potential terrorists bent on harming the U.S. In reality, though much information has not been publicly released, government officials say they are conducting a thorough vetting process of refugees coming into the country from Afghanistan.

Some Facebook posts assert that terrorists will attempt to sneak in alongside Afghans seeking asylum. In "Back Boris," a public group with over 41,000 members, one user wrote, "The Taliban will definitely send some of their supporters to the West posing as refugees. They will fight us in our own country." (This post received over 1,000 reactions and more than 500 comments.) This narrative has also spread to right-wing media including Breitbart, where an article titled "Report: Up to 100 Afghans Seeking Resettlement in U.S. 'Flagged' by Terrorism Watch Lists" has received over 13,000 interactions on Facebook, according to the social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.

The Taliban will definitely send some of their supporters to the West posing as refugees. They will fight us in our own country.racist rhetoric about Afghan refugees

Other Facebook users claimed that Biden "surrendered Afghanistan to terrorists" and that only a small portion of people who were evacuated were U.S. citizens, claiming there was "NO VETTING. How many terrorists will Joe Biden bring to America?" Right-wing outlets like The Federalist have shared similar narratives which then spread on Facebook, with one such article accumulating over 1,700 interactions (reactions, comments, and shares) across both public and private posts on the platform.

Racist rhetoric against Afghan Refugees

Users are also leveraging xenophobic conspiracy theories to promote other misinformedright-wing narratives, especially those surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations and the U.S.- Mexico border policy. And some have even threatened violence, suggesting that users should arm themselves to "defend" their communities against Afghan refugees.

Racist rhetoric about Afghan refugeesArticle about Greece building a wall

Though the platform allows discussion of immigration policies, the consistent attacks in which a whole population of people are smeared with dangerous stereotypes seemingly violate Facebook's hate speech policy, which prohibits attacks based on national origin.

Disregarding its own policies on anti-immigrant rhetoric is not new for the platform, as a 2019 study in the European Journal of Communication found:

In short, commercial platforms such as Facebook provide spaces for xenophobic, racist and nationalistic discourse online, and they shape antagonistic (Farkas et al., 2018) attitudes towards immigrants. Moreover, through their large size, they affect mainstream discourses on immigration and refugees, and contribute to a normalization of previously marginalized types of utterances, attitudes and opinions. Anti-immigration groups and publics on commercial social networking services (SNSs) also seem to amplify xenophobic and racist attitudes among their participants.

Facebook is facing no accountability for the malicious content about Afghan refugees that is circulating on its platform, once again showing the company's failure to stem the spread of misinformation, even in times of crisis.

In Afghanistan Biden Did What Was Right, Not What Was Easy

If Joe Biden were a typical politician, his choice on Afghanistan would have been easy. Political wisdom says you should never accept consequences today that you can postpone until after the next election, if not longer. Deceptive gimmicks and clever evasions are always preferable to painful solutions that pay off only in the long run.

Biden could have persisted in prolonging the stalemate. He could have quietly expanded our troop presence to hold the Taliban at bay. He could have blithely accepted the deaths of more American troops — and more Afghan civilians — to maintain the status quo.

Most Americans wouldn't have noticed or cared about the cost of continuing the war. His own party's progressives would have groused, but their priorities lie mainly in domestic policy, where Biden has been fairly accommodating. Republicans would not have made much of the issue.

But the president whose political skills earned him 36 years in the Senate and eight in the vice presidency chose to act with statesmanlike foresight. When it came to our longest military conflict, he could not countenance the option embraced by his three immediate predecessors.

George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump failed to win the war and refused to end it. Instead, they dragged it out, each leaving the problem to the next occupant of the White House. They wimped out to avoid being accused of wimpiness. They put their political interests ahead of the lives and limbs of American service members.

Biden refused to avoid the inevitable any longer — in the full knowledge that the consequences would most likely be ugly and highly visible. He was the first president to act as though the buck really did stop with him.

His Tuesday address to the nation was a model of realism. He found two important lessons from our ill-starred effort. "First, we must set missions with clear achievable goals, not ones we'll never reach," he declared. "And second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interests of the United States of America." Neither principle could justify staying in Afghanistan.

Critics accuse him of weakness, but there was nothing weak about his resolve to put a stop to a hopeless war. In the face of furious denunciations by people whose terrible judgment helped lead us into the deadly quagmires that have bogged us down for so long, he was bracingly immovable.

Biden understands better than his critics what the options were: Get out and accept the defeat of the Kabul regime or expand our military role to push back against an enemy that had been steadily gaining ground.

As he noted in his Tuesday address, the Trump administration had signed an agreement committing us to leave by May 1, in exchange for the Taliban's agreement not to attack our forces. Biden extended the deadline by four months, and the Taliban chose not to renege on its obligation. But any further postponement — or renunciation of the deal — would have meant a renewed and wider war.

It is understandable that critics would find fault with the chaotic, deadly, and heartbreaking endgame. But the possibility that Biden might have managed our departure better doesn't mean the departure was a mistake.

The shockingly rapid collapse of the government only proved how completely we failed in Afghanistan. You might say that the structure we created turned out to be a Potemkin village, but that would be too generous. A Potemkin village doesn't disintegrate overnight.

The Afghan military got vast amounts of money, training and equipment from the U.S., not for one year or five years but for 20. It could call on American bombers, helicopter gunships and drones to incinerate its foes. It enjoyed an embarrassment of riches. In resources, the Taliban were grossly outmatched.

But they had the most vital asset any fighting force can have: motivation. It was something our Afghan partners lacked. In the end, they didn't really lose to the Taliban; they forfeited.

The late William Safire once recalled that as a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, one of his tasks was to say, "Mr. President — Do the popular thing! Take the easy way!" Nixon could then tell the public, "Some of my aides have suggested that I do the popular thing, that I should take the easy way. But I have rejected such counsel."

For a long time, we've had politicians who happily accepted such counsel. Biden is a different kind of leader.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Still Lying: Trump Claims Afghan Departure Left '$85 Billion' In Weapons

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Monday, August 30, former President Donald Trump claimed that the Taliban — now in control of Afghanistan — has seized $83 billion worth of U.S. weapons. But that claim has been fact-checked and refuted by the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler.

In his August 30 statement, Trump said, "Never in history has a withdrawal from war been handled so badly or incompetently as the Biden Administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan. In addition to the obvious, ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost. If it is not handed back, we should either go in w/unequivocal Military force and get it, or at least bomb the hell out of it."

Trump failed to mention, of course, that the Biden Administration was following the Trump/Mike Pompeo plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, although at a slower pace. Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted the U.S. out of Afghanistan even sooner than President Joe Biden. While Biden wanted to withdraw troops before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Trump planned to remove them during the spring of 2021.

Kessler, discussing Trump's claims that the Taliban has seized $83 million worth of U.S. weapons, explains, "We don't normally pay much attention to claims made by the former president, as he mostly just riffs golden oldies. But this is a new claim. A version of this claim also circulates widely on right-leaning social media — that somehow, the Taliban has ended up with $83 billion in U.S. weaponry. Trump, as usual, rounds the number up."

Kessler adds, "The $83 billion number is not invented out of whole cloth. But it reflects all the money spent to train, equip and house the Afghan military and police — so weapons are just a part of that. At this point, no one really knows the value of the equipment that was seized by the Taliban."

The Post journalist notes that the $83 million figure "comes from an estimate in the July 30 quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for all spending on the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund since the U.S. invasion in 2001."

According to Kessler, "The $83 billion spent on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) goes back two decades, including almost $19 billion spent between 2002 and 2009."

Applying the Washington Post's "Pinocchio Test" to Trump, Kessler breaks down that $83 million some more.

Kessler notes, "U.S. military equipment was given to Afghan security forces over two decades. Tanks, vehicles, helicopters and other gear fell into the hands of the Taliban when the U.S.-trained force quickly collapsed…. But the value of the equipment is not more than $80 billion. That's the figure for all of the money spent on training and sustaining the Afghan military over 20 years. The equipment portion of that total is about $24 billion — certainly not small change — but the actual value of the equipment in the Taliban's hands is probably much less than even that amount."

Afghans Who Won Visa Lottery Left Behind By Trump Policy

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Fakhruddin Akbari is allowing his full name to be published because he is certain he is going to die. Akbari, his wife and his 3-year-old daughter fled their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, two weeks ago. They've been hiding with friends in the city, living on bread and water.

He should be among the lucky ones.

Instead, Akbari fears the very thing he was hoping would be his salvation will now make him a target.

Two years ago, Akbari won a rare spot in the United States' "visa lottery." He was chosen at random from a pool of 23 million to get the chance to apply for one of 55,000 visas to immigrate to the U.S. The U.S. was supposed to have finished his case by last fall. The instructions when he registered promised as much. Either he would be safely en route to the U.S., or he would lose his chance and move on.

But with the final U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan just days away — and as Thursday's bombings have added even more chaos at Kabul's airport — Akbari has almost certainly lost his chance to get out.

He has already burned the letters of commendation his relatives received for their work with American contractors or allied militaries. The Taliban already know, he says, that he's part of a pro-American family. His neighbors have told him they've been visited by strangers asking about him.

A March 2020 ban signed by President Donald Trump, citing a need to protect the American economy, prevented Akbari and visa lottery winners from entering the U.S. In response to a lawsuit by immigration lawyers, a federal judge ruled earlier this month that the government has to move ahead on processing thousands of last year's lottery winners. But the U.S. has told the judge it can't even start until fall 2022 at the earliest.

Several hundred Afghans are in the group. They may be the unluckiest winners in the visa lottery's 30-year history.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

The lottery isn't open to everyone. Winners must come from a country that hasn't had much recent immigration to the U.S. Applicants for the visas must also submit biometric information, pass an interview and medical screening, and complete several security checks.

Nouman, an Afghan lottery winner who asked that his full name not be used over fear of the Taliban, spent months tracking down police documents from the Chinese town where he'd worked for a few years, to prove he had a clean record.

Those requirements are still far less restrictive than other ways to legally immigrate to the U.S., which generally require being closely related to a citizen or green-card holder or having a job offer from an American company. In Afghanistan, interest in the lottery is so great that Nouman said it took him two days to successfully log onto the swamped website where lottery results were posted.

But unlike other visas, diversity visas — the type lottery winners become eligible to receive — are on a tight and unvarying schedule.

Lottery winners are notified in the early summer. After submitting their full application, they can only be interviewed at the nearest U.S. consulate once the federal fiscal year begins on October 1. Then the whole process has to be completed within a year. Eligibility for the visa doesn't roll over.

Usually, most of the annual 55,000 visas have been handed out by that time. But last year, two things happened. First, in mid-March, consulates around the world shut down because of the pandemic. Two weeks later, Trump declared that letting in immigrants would hamper the recovery of the economy, and he signed the order barring most types of immigrants — including diversity visa holders.

When U.S. embassies and consulates began to reopen last summer, a State Department cable disclosed as part of the lawsuit shows they were instructed to handle diversity visas last, even if they met the narrow exemptions to the ban.

Giving someone a visa is legally distinct from letting them enter the U.S., and critics of Trump's actions — including a group of lawyers who filed lawsuits over the bans — argued that even if the ban were legal, consulates could still prepare visas so that recipients could come after the ban was rescinded, which President Joe Biden did this February.

In early September last year, Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the argument and ordered the government to make up for lost time, prioritizing diversity visa applicants ahead of everyone else for the last 26 days of the fiscal year.

The State Department's bureaucracy took a few days to get into gear. Then it began a process that turned out to be far from efficient.

Officials compiled a spreadsheet of applicants who had joined the now-consolidated suit and were supposed to be prioritized, but it was riddled with misspelled names and incorrect case numbers. In a court declaration, a State Department official from a different office said the spreadsheet took "many queries" from his team to fix.

Once consulates and embassies got the correct names, they rushed appointments, often giving applicants little notice. The Kabul embassy wasn't participating at all, so any Afghan appointments were set up in different countries — or continents.

At least three Afghan immigrants, including Nouman, were scheduled for interviews in Cameroon. All three were given one day's notice to get there. (Nouman, at least, was able to get a later appointment in Islamabad, Pakistan.)

Many more weren't given interviews at all. According to court filings, some State Department employees told applicants who called the office handling the cases that if they hadn't officially joined the lawsuit, "you lost your chance" — which wasn't true. When a COVID-19 outbreak hit the office and workers went remote, the help line shut down entirely.

When the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, 2020, more than 40,000 of the 55,000 diversity visas were still unused — and several hundred Afghans were still waiting. Less than 20% of the Afghan lottery winners had gotten visas by the deadline.

That day, Mehta had ordered the State Department to reserve 9,505 slots, based on his estimate of how many diversity visas could have been processed if COVID-19 had existed but the ban didn't. When the case finally concluded this month, he declared that the government would indeed have to process those visas.

That opinion came down on August 17, two days after Kabul fell.

In a response filed to Mehta on Thursday, the government offered to start processing last year's visas in October 2022. One reason given for the proposed delay was that processing older visas is "an unprecedented computing demand that will require the Department to implement wide-ranging hardware and software modifications." Another was that processing diversity visas would take resources away from dealing with the crisis in Afghanistan.

It went unmentioned that some people are affected by both.

Lawyers for the affected immigrants made an emergency filing this week, with testimony from several Afghans worried that they would be targeted by the Taliban precisely because they had sought to immigrate to the U.S. They're hoping the court will order expedited consideration for Afghan lottery winners.

The lawyers are moving to appeal for the court to order that Afghans get priority in the visa process. The plaintiffs' lawyers had asked the government to consent to their filing the request. The government's response — after several days of silence, delaying the filing — was to call it an "unnecessary distraction."

In a meeting by phone on Monday, according to two people on the call, another government attorney complained that he'd been getting emails from applicants "all over the world" and blamed their lawyers for posting his address online. One of those emails was a desperate cry for help from Akbari. "We are totally hopeless and every knock of the door seems like a call to death for us," Akbari wrote. "Please help us."

In the time since sending that email, Akbari and his family have made two attempts to get to Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. The first time, he says, they were beaten back by the Taliban. The second time he was stopped by the United States. The Marines guarding the airport said they couldn't enter. The reason? They did not have visas.

VIDEO: Watch Angy Mike Pompeo Flip And Flop On Taliban

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With the Taliban now in control of Afghanistan, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is vehemently criticizing President Joe Biden for withdrawing U.S. troops from that country — neglecting to mention that Biden was essentially following the plan that Pompeo and former President Donald Trump came up with in 2020. MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan, in response, has posted a video showing how badly Pompeo is now contradicting what he had to say about Afghanistan and the Taliban last year.

Some right-wing Republicans have at least been consistent in their views on Afghanistan. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and former National Security John Bolton have been slamming the Trump/Pompeo plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan as badly flawed and saying that Biden and his advisers were wrong to go along with it. But Pompeo, as Hasan's video demonstrates, is now contradicting much of what he had to say in 2020.

The video shows Pompeo, in 2020, praising "the senior Taliban leadership" for "working diligently to reduce violence," followed by the Pompeo of 2021 saying of the Taliban, "These are butchers…. These are evil people" and telling Fox News' Chris Wallace, "We never trusted the Taliban."

Pompeo is seen in 2020 saying with confidence, "There are a series of commitments the Taliban have made. We have every expectation they will follow through on them." And Pompeo, in 2020, expressed confidence that the Taliban would "break" their "relationship" with al-Qaeda and "work alongside" the United States "to destroy, deny resources to and have al-Qaeda depart from that place." But in a 2021 clip included in Hasan's video, Pompeo complains, "We have allowed al-Qaeda to run free and wild all around Afghanistan."

The video ends on a mocking note with a clip of Pompeo angrily saying, "No, I'm not defensive at all."

Here are some responses to Hasan's video:

Forgotten Lessons Led To Tragedy In Afghanistan

The spectacle of Americans and their local allies rushing desperately to evacuate from Kabul brought to mind similar scenes from Saigon in 1975. The repetition suggested that Americans and their leaders didn't learn from the earlier experience. In fact, we did learn. But then we forgot.

Maybe the surprise is not that we had to rediscover the difficulty of extricating our people and allies after giving up on an unsuccessful war. Maybe the surprise is that there was such a long interval between the two debacles. For a while, we avoided such failures, and not by accident.

In the 1980s, liberals depicted President Ronald Reagan as a trigger-happy warmonger. But his two terms stand out as a time when the United States, haunted by Vietnam, largely rejected direct military intervention abroad. He did dispatch Marines to Beirut as part of a peacekeeping force — but when a terrorist attack killed 241 American service members, he quickly withdrew our forces.

Reagan's Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger laid out a set of principles for deciding when to go to war. He argued that "vital national interests" must be at stake and that we must have clear objectives and the means to attain them.

By 1992, the "Weinberger Doctrine" was incorporated into the "Powell Doctrine" by Gen. Colin Powell, who served President George H.W. Bush as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Among his contributions was the rule that we have "a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement."

This approach didn't mean the U.S. would never go to war: We did so in 1983 in Grenada to topple a Marxist government and rescue American students. We did so in 1989 in Panama to remove a dictator blamed for drug trafficking. Most notably, we did so in 1991 to evict Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait.

Whether these wars were wise and necessary is subject to debate. But in each case, we did what we set out to do and got out.

Success, however, bred amnesia. President George W. Bush had little choice but to invade Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden used it as a base for the 9/11 attacks. But once the Taliban were defeated and al-Qaeda was on the run, Bush chose to stay in an effort to cultivate freedom, democracy, and prosperity. It was the antithesis of the Powell Doctrine: an ill-defined mission that lay beyond our core competence and was not essential to our security — all without an exit strategy.

It has been clear for years that our efforts in Afghanistan were not working. But three presidents chose to prolong our involvement rather than admit futility.

What we learned when President Joe Biden refused to continue the war is that our failure exceeded our worst assumptions. We didn't know what was really going on in Afghanistan, and we didn't know we didn't know. We were clueless in Kabul.

The sudden, complete disintegration of the government revealed that it was no more viable than a brain-dead patient on life support. All Biden did was pull the plug.

It's fair to say that his administration should have been better prepared for the collapse so it could manage a more orderly withdrawal. But as Texas A&M security scholar Jasen Castillo tweeted, "There is no pretty way to leave a losing war." The nature of wars is that winners dictate the final terms. And the Taliban won this war.

It's commonly assumed that we could have preserved the previous status quo by maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan. But by May 2020, long before Biden arrived, the government had seen its control dwindle to 30 percent of the country's 407 districts, with the Taliban controlling 20 percent — more than at any time since the U.S. invasion.

Back then, one expert told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, "The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country's major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads." Sound familiar? The longer we stayed, the greater the risk of being forced into an even bigger commitment — with no hope of victory.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus said to a reporter, "Tell me how this ends?" Before we embark on a war, not after, is the time to answer that question. If we don't have an answer, the enemy will.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Over 70,000 Evacuated From Kabul As CIA Chief Meets With Taliban Leader

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Tuesday morning, the Pentagon provided an update on the number of people who have been airlifted out of Kabul since the U.S. began evacuations in the last week of July. In that time, 63,900 people have left Afghanistan on U.S. military flights. However, the more impressive number might be what's happened in the last few days. As the Taliban moved in, the U.S. and allies have accelerated operations.

The media may be focused on claims of "chaos," but what the numbers show is a military evacuation flight leaving Kabul every 45 minutes and a flight coming in or out every two minutes. In just the last 24 hours before the morning briefing, 37 U.S. military evacuation flights carried 12,700 away from Kabul. Another 57 flights involving allies, commercial, and charter aircraft carried out 8,900. That's 21,600 people flying out in a day.

The previous day military spokesmen reported over 10,000 evacuations. It may not match the kind of traffic seen in many major U.S. airports, but then, Kabul's airport has, along with other difficulties, only a single runway. The Pentagon describes it as "an exhausting pace" that involves over 200 aircraft and 6,000 troops from the U.S. along with allied forces. With a week to go before the current "red line" for U.S. forces to leave the country, Army Gen. Stephen Lyons said he was confident that the military can keep up, or even increase, the pace of people coming out.

On Tuesday morning, NBC News reported that Kabul International is now an "extremely busy airfield" where departures were "orderly" with no one cutting lines, bags being searched, and "even candy for the kids." They also reported that "the Taliban are helping make it go smoothly by providing security outside the airport." But while that segment ran on the Today show, it would be hard to find anything equivalent on any news site, including NBC's, where all the headlines are of "chaos," "pressure," and how how this supposed failure is crashing approval ratings for President Biden.

In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, President Biden noted that 50 flights have left Kabul in the last 12 hours. That included 19 U.S. military evacuation flights and 31 other flights from coalition partners. In total, 70,700 people have now been evacuated. Biden said that he had held extensive discussions with G7 partners, praised allies for the evacuees they were taking in, and explained that Afghan coming to America will have undergone background checks. Biden also took a moment to mention that Trump had destroyed the SIV program, causing some delays in clearing Afghan evacuees.

Biden also mentioned, as had previously been discussed, that he has asked the military and State Department to prepare contingencies if the U.S. is unable to evacuate those who want to get out by August 31. However, he acknowledge that the longer the U.S. is present on the ground, the more inviting a target Kabul's airport comes for militants who want to strike a blow against both the U.S. and the Taliban.

On Tuesday morning The Washington Post reported that CIA Director William Burns held a covert meeting on Monday with the Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar—the same man that Donald Trump pressured Pakistan to release from jail. Baradar not only led the negotiations with Trump that created an agreement which excluded the existing Afghan government, he is now expected to take over as the new president when the Taliban leadership settles in.

That meeting likely means the U.S. has informed Baradar that, despite previous announcement that the U.S. would be out by August 31, that deadline may be extended if necessary to get Americans and Afghans who worked with the American military out of the country. Even though it was Biden who gave the August 31 date for when he expected operations to be complete, he has been definitive in saying that those Americans and Afghan allies who want to leave will get that opportunity. Despite the accelerating pace of evacuations, that may require staying more than the week that remains.

On Tuesday morning, military advisers stated that the U.S. should attempt to stick with the August 31 date, and anonymous sources told Politico that Biden agrees with that decision. There is absolutely no doubt that the U.S. will attempt to get everyone out in that time. There's also no doubt that, no matter what date the U.S. leaves, there will still be reports of Americans or others who got left behind. That's inevitable. But no matter what's being said publicly, the meeting between Burns and Barador is a good indicator that in private the Taliban is being informed that, in spite of threats, the U.S. will remain at the Kabul airport if there are still lines of people attempting to leave.

That meeting might also serve another purpose: getting the Taliban to provide more assistance in getting people out of the country. In fact, there might be a direct relationship between that meeting between Burns and Baradar, and NBC reports that Taliban forces are helping evacuations run "smoothly."

That's because, no matter how quickly the Taliban rolled over the U.S.-trained Afghan forces, the last thing they want is to actually reengage with the U.S. military. Baradar doesn't want to give the U.S. any excuse to take actions such as bombing military bases now occupied by the Taliban, or pushing U.S military forces back toward the heart of Kabul to provide an expanded corridor. More than anything, Baradar simply wants the U.S. to be gone. So hearing that the U.S. might need to extend their departure date should light at least as big a fire under Baradar as it is for leaders at the Pentagon.

Staying around past the end of this month is a contingency that no one wants to deal with. The increasing pace of departures from Kabul International Airport make that contingency less likely. And the best thing about the meeting between Burns and Baradar may have been that it reminded the Taliban to save their gloating until after the U.S. military is not around.

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2021 · 12:45:00 PM EDT · Mark Sumner

This is a big deal.

Afghan Mission Impossible Was Not Possible

As the images of chaos at Afghanistan's main airport looped on the news channels, "disaster" quickly became the favored word of commentators, followed by "disgrace." What we saw was disturbing, especially the evidence that U.S. forces hadn't secured the airport early on.

But 20 years after the U.S. first sent its soldiers to police the country and spent billions arming a huge Afghan army — a force that quickly melted away — Americans saw their country finally getting out of an impossible mission, that of transforming a very foreign political culture to our liking. The audience at home did not share the unhappiness expressed by experts on TV criticizing what they saw on TV.

Everyone saw the hundreds of Afghans running on the tarmac. They heard commentators opining with no information that the mob was all frightened Afghans who had helped the U.S. But some could have been using the confusion to immigrate to a better life in America. Some could have been slipped into the crowds by terrorist organizations. No one then knew.

And if, in the middle of the craziness, someone clings to the bottom of a packed U.S. military cargo plane as it takes off — and that person falls to earth — what are we supposed to do about that?

Since then, the optics haven't been all bad. Hundreds of Afghanis gathered in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and other cities to protest the radical Islamist takeover, and the Taliban responded with violence. In the end, though, this is the Afghans' fight.

America's presence did give women 20 years of relative freedom. We learn that some are now buying up burqas but also that other brave women are venturing onto the streets with uncovered faces.

Afghans facing the Taliban on their streets without an American escort is a good thing. Also potentially positive are signs that the Taliban may want the world to see them as less monstrous than before. America's job now is to ensure that they don't again send terrorists their way.

This can be done through intelligence. As National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told the media, we are already dealing with the threat of terrorism in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and across the Islamic Maghreb, "without sustaining a permanent military presence."

Media pests, meanwhile, were demanding apologies to liven their chyrons. "Will you publicly disclose what went wrong?" one journalist asked. No, the U.S. is not going to issue a what-went-wrong report, Sullivan responded, but it is going to look at "everything that happened."

Another reporter asked, "Will the U.S. government commit to ensuring that any Americans that are currently on the ground in Afghanistan get out?" It can sure try, but how many American soldiers' lives are you going to risk searching remote mountain villages for U.S. nationals?

A dumb foreign journalist asked, "How can you just claim to be a global leader without making sacrifice?" Sullivan showed great self-control in noting that 2,448 Americans had lost their lives and many thousands more were injured in Afghanistan, and the United States has spent more than $1 trillion there.

There's been much simple-minded lumping of the evacuation from Kabul with that from Saigon in 1975. There was a big difference: Americans were obsessed with the war in Vietnam. They hardly thought about Afghanistan.

The recent exit has been painful, as evacuations tend to be. But claims that it cost America "credibility" — that it was a "betrayal" that will "live in infamy" (George Packer inThe Atlantic) — can be ignored.

Most Americans understand that trying to redo the politics of this very different place has been mission impossible. For them, this withdrawal was not a foreign policy calamity. It was a relief.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com