Taliban moves to restart Kabul as Joe Biden defends US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

As scenes of chaos unfolded in the Afghan capital, Mr Biden said he was "deeply saddened" by the turn of events, but was steadfast in insisting he did not regret pulling out America's troops.

The Taliban moved Tuesday to quickly restart the Afghan capital following their stunning takeover of Kabul and told government staff to return to work.

The Taliban moved Tuesday to quickly restart the Afghan capital following their stunning takeover of Kabul and told government staff to return to work. Source: Xinhua News Agency

The Taliban moved Tuesday to quickly restart the Afghan capital following their stunning takeover of Kabul and told government staff to return to work, though residents reacted cautiously and few women took to the streets.

Tens of thousands of people have tried to flee Afghanistan to escape the hardline Islamist rule expected under the Taliban, or fearing direct retribution for siding with the US-backed government that ruled for the past two decades.

Evacuations flights from Kabul's airport restarted on Tuesday after chaos the previous day in which huge crowds mobbed the tarmac, with some people so desperate they clung to the outside of a US military plane as it prepared for take-off.

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The Taliban led a pariah regime from 1996-2001, infamous for a brutal rule in which girls could not go to school and people were stoned to death.



US-led forces invading following the September 11 attacks, in response to the Taliban giving sanctuary to Al-Qaeda, and toppled them.

Now the Taliban are back in power, they have sought to project an air of restraint and moderation, including by on Tuesday announcing a "general amnesty" for government workers.

"Those working in any part or department of the government should resume their duties with full satisfaction and continue their duties without any fear," a Taliban statement said.

Some shops also reopened as traffic police were back on the streets, while its officials planned a first diplomatic meeting -- with the Russian ambassador.

A Taliban official also gave an interview to a female journalist on an Afghan news channel.

'There is fear'

However schools and universities remain closed, few women openly took to the streets and men had shed their Western clothes for traditional garb.

"The fear is there," said a shopkeeper who asked not to be named after opening his small neighbourhood provisions store.



The UN Security Council also said Monday the international community must ensure Afghanistan does not become a breeding ground for terrorism.

"The world is watching," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

The Taliban took effective control of the country on Sunday when president Ahraf Ghani fled and the insurgents walked into Kabul with no opposition.

It capped a staggeringly fast rout of all cities in just 10 days, and achieved with relatively little bloodshed, following two decades of war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

The collapse came after President Joe Biden withdrew US troops, under the false belief that the Afghan army - with billions of dollars in American funding and training - was strong enough to withstand the Taliban.

Joe Biden defends troop withdrawal

Mr Biden defended the US pullout from Afghanistan on Monday, saying he stood by the policy and that it was time to leave after 20 years of conflict.

"I am president of the United States of America and the buck stops with me," he said in a much-awaited televised address from the White House, after several days of silence on the momentous developments.

As scenes of mayhem unfolded in the Afghan capital, Mr Biden said he was "deeply saddened" by the turn of events and promised to "speak out" on the rights of women now facing a return to Taliban rule.



But he was steadfast in insisting he did not regret pulling out America's troops - despite a torrent of criticism of the chaotic end to two decades of US-led military intervention.

"I stand squarely behind my decision," Mr Biden said. "After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces." 



The US leader acknowledged that the Afghan government collapsed more quickly than he expected and suggested that they had lacked the will to stand up to the Taliban.

"The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So what's happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military gave up, sometimes without trying to fight," Mr Biden said.

"We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future."



Mr Biden reiterated however that the US national interest in Afghanistan was always principally about preventing terrorist attacks on the US homeland - and that America would continue to "act quickly and decisively" against any terror threat emanating from the country.

"The mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building," he said.

And, the US President issued a stark warning to the Taliban not to disrupt or threaten the evacuation of thousands of American diplomats and Afghan translators at the Kabul airport.

"We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary," he said.


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5 min read
Published 17 August 2021 at 7:13am
Source: AFP, SBS