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What will the Taliban do now?

Kabul is “reminiscent of a doomsday scene”, says Maryam Nabavi in the FT. Barbed wire blocks roads. Women’s shoes, abandoned by their fleeing owners, litter the streets. Thousands of Afghans flooded the tarmac at Kabul airport, desperately clawing at retreating C-17 cargo planes as 20 years of US operations ended in chaos. Desperate refugees fell to their deaths from the departing aircraft. I haven’t left home in 60 hours. A door-to-door Taliban search is rooting out Nato and former government employees. Even if they do not kill women like me who have worked and raised their voices, under the Taliban’s hardline Sharia law, “we are dead anyway”.

“I have the feeling that Joe Biden will have to wait for a while before he receives his Nobel peace prize,” says Rod Liddle in The Spectator. God help Afghanistan, and in particular the women. But it’s stupid to argue that we’ve let anyone down when we shouldn’t have been there at all. The pullout of US troops was “atrociously” handled by a doddering halfwit. But you can’t cajole a country, “at the point of a gun”, into becoming a liberal democracy.

“Do you take us all for fools?” asks Ayaan Hirsi Ali in UnHerd. When Biden insisted human rights were still at the heart of US foreign policy, “I wanted to shout at the TV”. What about the 19 million women sentenced by American foreign policy to a life of darkness under the Taliban? “Surely they deserve human rights, too?” In Kandahar they have been told not to return to their jobs, and Afghanistan’s LGBT population has been abandoned. Biden must also own the way China, Iran and other current adversaries will use the “Afghan fiasco to their advantage”.

Blame Biden all you like, says Tom Nichols in The Atlantic. But America has what it wanted. About 70% of the public supports a pullout. “Afghanistan is your fault.”

I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s five-year period of power from 1996, and found it “deeply scary”, says the BBC’s John Simpson. Public executions, stonings and whippings were commonplace. Women only ventured out with written permission from men. Gangs of vigilantes attacked men who showed their ankles or wore any western clothing. The Taliban minister of health complained to me that the International Red Cross refused his request to provide surgeons to cut off the hands and feet of convicted thieves, so he had to do the job personally. “He seemed to quite enjoy it.” How will history remember the Taliban’s return?

Perhaps as “the pivot point when the American empire lost its lustre”, says Pakistan’s Daily Times. After “dumping” trillions of dollars into fighting the war, erecting the Afghan government, training and arming the Afghan army, bribing ministers and buying militias, the US “still had to cut and run in the most humiliating way imaginable”. And after the military phase, the real chaos begins. The former head of Afghanistan’s central bank told the FT the country is broke. That will only fuel a migrant crisis. “Now the whole world will have to look on with bated breath as the Taliban decides how to run the country.”

Britain’s worst day since Suez

News that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was spotted lounging on a beach in Crete on the day Kabul fell “certainly sends a message”, says Marina Hyde in The Guardian. Labour has called for his resignation after it emerged that he delegated a crucial call over evacuations to a junior while on holiday. This is “the biggest policy disaster since Suez”, says Tom Tugendhat in The Times. MPs on all sides accused Boris Johnson of failure at a hastily recalled parliament. The US has once again shown it does what it wants, when it wants, with no input from us. How foolish we look. The urgent priority must be evacuating Britons and Afghans to whom we owe refuge. Britain has agreed to take 20,000 refugees. The longer-term question is: “What next?”

Hillary Clinton on America’s history in Afghanistan, in 2009 👇