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The Fall of Afghanistan in Personal Snapshots

Chaos rules in Afghanistan, the only sure and solid institution ― if you want to call them that ―being the Taliban. Despite nearly 20 years of blood-and-treasure investment by the U.S. in that backward country, attempting to build a democracy, a military and a modern culture, the Taliban are the only people who know exactly what they want and are organized enough to carry out their objectives.

Worst of all, the Afghan people who looked to the U.S. for guidance, direction and leadership are now left abandoned and isolated, just as they were for the 10 years following the Russian withdrawal from the country in 1989 after their failed attempt to annex Afghanistan to the then-Soviet bloc.

The U.S. could have won the hearts and minds of the Afghan people then by simply investing in their country. The congressman who single-handedly shamed Washington into supporting the Mujahadeen that pulled off that miracle wanted to do exactly that, but just as now, the U.S. “leadership” turned its back.

We need to express our sympathies to the veterans of the Afghanistan War ― “Operation Enduring Freedom,” a name now heavy with sarcastic irony. They feel the pain of sacrifice of their brothers and sisters who did not come home and whose names have now been trampled on by Joe Biden’s puppet masters and the Taliban.

A combat veteran myself with 12,863 hours in combat helicopters over a 22+ year career, I am particularly sensitive to their pain., I suffered similar feelings when we abandoned Vietnam, my first war.

We shed the blood of 58,220 American’s blood poured hundreds of billions of U.S. treasure into that black hole of hell. When the real politicians in Congress and the pseudo-politicians in the Pentagon abandoned the effort to win, within as little as a week of North Vietnamese surrender, I was ― to put it crudely ― totally pissed off, within a hair’s breadth of being homicidal.

Thankfully, I got past that moment without shooting a congressman or a general. So will our Afghan veterans, though they find that extremely difficult to believe at this hour.

The Afghan people, however, are another story.

Filmmaker and director Sahraa Karimi is the first ― and unfortunately likely to remain the only ― woman in Afghanistan to hold a Ph.D. in cinema and filmmaking. She currently serves as the general director of the Afghan Film Organization. Only God knows how much longer that position will last.

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Karimi took to Twitter Friday, issuing a dire warning of what could come in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power That happened a full two weeks before the U.S. was set to complete its troop withdrawal following the costly two-decade war.

“I write to you with a broken heart and a deep hope that you can join me in protecting my beautiful people, especially filmmakers from the Taliban,” Karimi wrote in the lengthy memorandum. “In the last few weeks, they have massacred our people, they kidnapped many children, they sold girls as child brides to their men … It’s a humanitarian crisis, and yet the world is silent… They will ban all art. I and other filmmakers could be next on their hit list.”

Karimi was highly critical of the Afghan media and the international humanitarian organizations who she accused of opting for silence and abandoning those in Afghanistan. She laid the blame for that desertion, along with that of U.S. troops and citizens being pulled from Kabul, on a desire to appease the rapidly-approaching Taliban.

“We have grown accustomed to this silence, yet we know it is not fair,” she wrote. “We know that this decision to abandon our people is wrong, that this hasty troop withdrawal is a betrayal of our people and all that we did when Afghans won the Cold War for the west.”

Karimi was referring back to the Afghan defeat of Soviet Russia in 1989, which precipitated the fall of the Iron Curtain 18 months later.  She expressed in her decree that she anticipates young girls who are attending school will likely be forced out under the Taliban’s rule.

“Our people were forgotten then, leading up to the Taliban’s dark rule, and now, after 20 years of immense gains for our country and especially our younger generations, all could be lost again in this abandonment.”

Those the Taliban are bound to count as “traitors” are also fearing for their lives.

A man who is known to American troops as “Reggie” and prefers to remain in the anonymity the pseudonym grants him is now a target of the Taliban. He served as an interpreter for U.S. military personnel for nine years, the bulk of the last half of U.S. involvement in the country.

“I haven’t been able to close my eyes for sleep for a minute since these insurgents arrived,” he told America’s Conservative Voice in a Tuesday telephone interview. “I can’t sleep for a single minute”

Reggie told us there are pictures of him with members of the U.S. military online. He knows for certain no one among the Taliban will forgive him if they find out about his cooperation with U.S. forces. From his rooftop, he said, he watched Taliban forces move through his neighborhood on Sunday shortly after the city’s police abandoned a nearby station.

“They were telling them, ‘Don’t worry. We are here for your protection.’ And, ‘We’re not going to harm any one of you guys.’ And ‘We are here for the enemy of this country.’ So, they were actually giving the people time in order to be relaxed. But still, no one can trust on their words. They can do anything, any moment, whatever they want,” he said.

“I’m standing out in front of my house, but I’m not feeling safe. There isn’t a single moment that I can be feeling relaxed,” Reggie added.

Reggie is one of roughly 20,000 Afghan nationals, along with 53,000 of their family members, who are currently in a backlog for special immigrant visas to come to the U.S. The process is 14 steps long and takes an average of three and a half years, according to the nonprofit No One Left Behind, which works to help interpreters secure visas.

Reggie has been trying to get a visa for over a decade.

The nonprofit says 300 Afghan interpreters and their family members have already been killed since 2001 because of their association with American forces.

“They are seeking retribution against men and women they call U.S. collaborators,” the group’s chairman, James Miervaldis, told America’s Conservative Voice.

Reggie still suffers from injuries he received in 2014 during his time working with the U.S. A suicide bomber attack left 23 pieces of shrapnel lodged in his body. He has problems with his left ear and sometimes can’t control his body.

“Because of my service, my family is suffering right now. My family, my kids is telling me that, ‘Bad guy is going to come and is going to kill you, then us.’ And I keep telling them, ‘No, there are a lot of good friends that I have in America. I have made a lot of good friends and they’re going to take us, baby, you don’t have to worry about it,” he said.

America’s Conservative Voice was unable to complete the planned interview because Reggie’s phone went dead at this point. We have not been able to reach him again.

Afghan women and girls fear for their future as large parts of their country falls under Taliban rule.

An emotional video of a tearful Afghan girl has gone viral on Twitter. Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist and journalist, posted a video showing that Afghan women face an uncertain, and likely grim, future as the Taliban gains control of large parts of Afghanistan.

In a rare moment of candor, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres― and contrary to the silence from our White House ― warned Monday that the “hard-won rights” of Afghan women are being “ripped away” from them. As large swathes of Afghanistan fall to the Taliban at an alarming speed, a video has gone viral, showing a hopeless Afghan teenager crying about her grim future.

“We don’t count because we were born in Afghanistan,” the girl said through tears in the 45-second clip. The emotional video, which now has over 440,000 views, was first shared by Alinejad. It has been retweeted over 20,000 times.

“My heart breaks for women of Afghanistan,” Alinejad wrote in a post accompanying the clip. “The world has failed them.”

Under the previous period of Taliban rule, Afghan women were not allowed to work, study, or be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a male chaperone. Those who violated the misogynistic laws faced imprisonment, public flogging, and even execution.

Following the Taliban’s ousting from power in 2001, the international community worked to open schools for girls and allow women to return to work. Now that the Taliban has captured all but three of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and controls 90 percent of the country, Afghan women once again fear for their future.

“I cannot stop thinking and worrying about my friends, my neighbors, my classmates, all the women in Afghanistan,” an unnamed female journalist in Afghanistan told The Guardian.

Journalist Nazira Karimi also broke down during a Pentagon press briefing Monday about the rapidly deteriorating situation in her home country. She asked the department’s press secretary in Washington, “Where is my president, former President Ghani?”

She was referring to President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country on Sunday amid chaotic scenes in Kabul and the presidential palace takeover by the Taliban, who ordered the government to peacefully surrender. Sources on the ground at Kabul International Airport reported that Karimi left the country with what was estimated to be billions of dollars in U.S. cash. His burden was so large he couldn’t fit it all on the helicopter taking him out of the country, so he left a large amount of it behind.

“As you know, I’m from Afghanistan, and I’m very upset today because Afghan woman didn’t expect that overnight all the Taliban came,” Karimi told Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

“They took off my flag. This [raising and lowering a facemask displaying the Afghan flag] is my flag. And they put their flag. Everybody is upset, especially woman,” Karimi said.

“People expected that he [would leave] with the people, and immediately he run away. We don’t know where is he, and we don’t have a president. President Biden said the President Ghani know he has to fight for us people. They have to do everything, and we will able to financially help them. But we don’t have any president. We don’t have anything,” Karimi said.

She spoke of fears by many women in the country that the achievements of Afghan women made over the last several years would be lost should the country once again be under Taliban rule, which strictly limits what women are allowed to do.

Then there is the other side of the story.

Most Americans are familiar with the repatriation of U.S. traitor Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He inexplicable abandoned his post in June 2009 on a deployment to Paktika Province, Afghanistan. He was subsequently captured by the Taliban and held as a prisoner of war for nearly five years. He was ultimately released and returned to the U.S. through a controversial prisoner exchange involving the release of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

While Bergdahl was received with a celebratory welcome at the White House upon his May 2014 return, public opinion was immediately against him as the facts of his disappearance and capture became known. He ultimately pleaded guilty at court-martial to desertion and misbehavior, and was sentenced in Nov. 2017 to a dishonorable discharge, reduction to the grade of private, and forfeiture of $1,000 in salary per month for ten months.

What became of the so-called “Taliban Five” who were exchanged for Bergdahl?

One of them is now the leader of the Taliban’s Afghan government.

When President Barack Obama released five Taliban commanders from the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for Bergdahl in 2014, he assured a wary public that the dangerous enemy combatants would be transferred to Qatar and kept from causing any trouble in Afghanistan.

In fact, they were left free to engineer Sunday’s sacking of Kabul.

Soon after gaining their freedom, some of the notorious Taliban Five pledged to return to fight Americans in Afghanistan and made contacts with active Taliban militants there. The Obama-Biden administration turned a blind eye to the disturbing intelligence reports, and it wasn’t long before the freed detainees used Qatar as a base to form a regime in exile.

Eventually, they were recognized by Western diplomats as official representatives of the Taliban during recent “peace” talks.

Khairullah Khairkhwa, actually sat across the table from Biden’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Moscow, where Khairkhwa was part of the official Taliban delegation that negotiated the final terms of the US withdrawal. The retreat cleared a path for the Taliban to retake power again after 20 years of exile in Pakistan, Qatar and other Mideast countries.

“I started jihad to remove foreign forces from my country and establish an Islamic government, and jihad will continue until we reach that goal through a political agreement,” Khairkhwa said at the Moscow summit.

Five Afghan citizens, five vignettes into the Afghan culture. What have we learned?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Therein lies the greatest sadness of all.

Mike Nichols is a conservative, a patriot, U.S. Army veteran, behavioral therapist, political enthusiast, sports fan and writer living with his beautiful wife Liz in the Heartland. He has a regular blog at America’s Conservative Voice on Substack and a Facebook presence at Americas Conservative Voice-Facebook.