With the departure of Ashraf Ghani from Afghanistan, the US-imposed order in the land-locked country has come crashing down.
Ghani’s departure was announced in a video message on his Facebook page today by Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, and long-time rival of the now-ousted president.
Abdullah made the announcement with much glee as Ghani left Kabul International Airport for Tajikistan.
This may not be his final destination. He might end up in Dubai, the US or even India!
“The former Afghan president has left the nation,” Abdullah said in his message (our emphasis).
He is lucky to escape alive. Many of his predecessors suffered much worse fate.
After liberating 26 of 34 provincial capitals in a lightning campaign since August 6, Taliban fighters surrounded the capital Kabul on August 15.
This came soon after the capture of Mazar-i Sharif in the north and Jalalabad in the east on Saturday.
On August 11, Ghani had flown to Mazar-i Sharif, accompanied by the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum to shore up support for his crumbling regime.
He tried to patch up differences between Atta Muhammad Noor, a Tajik warlord who had ensconced himself in Mazar-i Sharif, much to the chagrin of Dostum, and the Uzbek warlord and mass murderer.
The patch-up proved short-lived as regime forces and allied militias surrendered to the Taliban sending the two warlords scurrying across the border into Uzbekistan.
Writing on Twitter, Atta Muhammad Noor said there was a conspiracy to defeat them in Mazar-i Sharif, capital of Balkh province and a Tajik stronghold.
He explained their fleeing from the battlefield by saying, “They had orchestrated the plot to trap Marshal Dostum and myself too, but they didn’t succeed.”
He did not explain whom he meant by “they”, but if Dostum had been captured by the Taliban, there is every likelihood they might have skinned him alive.
In November 2001, Dostum had murdered thousands of Taliban prisoners in Mazar-i Sharif by suffocating them in metal containers!
After taking over neighbouring provinces, the Taliban surrounded Kabul earlier today where Ghani was holed up in the presidential palace.
A day earlier, he had promised in a televised address that he was prepared to share “power” with the Taliban.
Not surprisingly, the Taliban dismissed this offer. Ghani had no power left to share.
The Taliban high command said it had instructed its fighters to not enter the capital city and refrain from violence.
The group also offered safe passage to anyone wishing to leave Kabul.
A Taliban team arrived in Kabul to negotiate a peaceful transfer of power.
It is interesting to note that the Taliban negotiated with a team led by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah.
Latest reports from Kabul say that Taliban fighters have entered the city to prevent looting.
This occurred in the wake of the news of Ghani’s departure and police and other security personnel abandoning their posts in the capital raising fears of looting.
Taliban fighters have also taken over Bagram Airbase from which the Americans had fled in the middle of the night on June 30, leaving their Afghan allies totally bewildered.
Media coverage of fast-moving developments provided interesting perspectives.
The Qatari-based Al Jazeera’s headline said: “President Ashraf Ghani leaves Afghanistan: Live”.
The BBC was less charitable, reflecting perhaps deep disappointment that the man the West had installed in power did not die for their cause, hopeless as it was.
“Afghan President Ghani flees country,” read the BBC headline!
As this high drama was playing out in the presidential palace without a president, the Americans were ferrying out their diplomatic personnel from the sprawling embassy in Kabul in Chinook helicopters.
Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the embassy compound as secret documents and computers were set on fire to prevent them from falling into hostile hands.
Much as US president Joe Biden and his generals wanted to avoid the Saigon moment, they actually provided precisely such a moment by their helicopter trips.
The only thing missing was the sea into which the Americans had dumped their helicopters as they got the hell out of Vietnam in March 1975.
On Thursday August 12, the State Department had warned all Americans to leave Kabul by the first available commercial flight otherwise the government would not be able to help them.
Similar orders were issued by other western governments asking their citizens to leave.
The US Charge d’Affaires at the US embassy Ross Wilson also fled the embassy earlier today and was at Kabul airport awaiting evacuation.
He also took the American flag with him as a sign of final retreat although the Taliban had given assurances that all diplomatic missions and staff would be provided protection.
This is the drop scene of the fall of the American empire biting the dust, like so many empires before it, in Afghanistan.