The situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating at a pace few would have imagined in the aftermath of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out US forces at speed.
The Taliban is in control of the country 20 years after being overthrown by American and British forces, with its fighters patrolling the streets of Kabul and the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, fleeing abroad.
For the people of this land battered by decades of violence, most of it brought about by foreign powers near and far, there is now darkness only too visible.
The Taliban offensive, with its devastating consequences, began after Mr Biden withdrew 2,500 American forces from Afghanistan in great haste, forcing British and other Nato forces to leave as well. Afghans point out ruefully that the president is now prepared to deploy almost twice as many troops for the safety of a handful of Americans than he was to keep a country from the grasp of jihadists.
In an example of the monumental failure of US intelligence about what was to befall Afghanistan, President Biden declared just five weeks ago “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely”.
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As the outcome unfolds, questions will continue to be asked about the West’s mission in this country. What exactly has been achieved by America’s longest war, the trillions of dollars spent and hundreds of lives of US, British and allied servicemen and women lost?
What about the Afghan people, which the intervention was , meant to be about. Has the chance to shape their lives and that of their society disappeared forever?
The Independent has provided decades of award winning journalistic coverage from the ground in Afghanistan. And now we are holding a webinar Afghanistan: An abandoned nation? to discuss the future Afghanistan faces and what lessons can be learned from the past.
The panel will be hosted by foreign editor David Harding and the panel will consist of foreign correspondent and commentator Patrick Cockburn, Camelia Entekhbifard, editor of Independent Persian, and Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayall, a commander who was the Middle East advisor in the Ministry of Defence and myself, the Defence and Diplomatic Editor.