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What Taliban advances could mean for the future of Afghanistan

With U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan set to leave the country by the end of August and Taliban fighters quickly gaining a foothold in the country, CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata says confrontation between a fragile Afghan government and Taliban insurgents is looming.  

“The important thing is how quickly [the U.S. withdrawal] has accelerated the disintegration of Afghanistan,” D’Agata told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett in this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast. “There is a two-minute offense that the Taliban were starting to implement… it has stunned everybody — the Afghans, Americans, the White House — how quickly the Taliban advance in the offensive has gone on in the past six weeks or so.” 

This week’s departure of General Scott Miller, the longest serving commander in Afghanistan, marked the symbolic end of the U.S. military mission in the country. Taliban militants continue to surround provincial capitals “waiting for the last American soldier to leave before pulling the trigger [on further military action],” D’Agata said. 

D’Agata said that the Afghan government may have no choice but to negotiate a long-term solution with Taliban leaders. 

“There may be a diplomatic solution, but the Afghan government, the Afghan people, sadly, are really going to be staring down any kind of negotiations through the barrel of a gun,” D’Agata said, adding that the endgame of the Taliban is to run Afghanistan’s government and to remove what it sees as a puppet government that favors U.S. political interests. 

D’Agata also said younger Afghans are afraid of more war and destruction, including a potential “rewinding of the clock” that could push girls out of school and return the country to Sharia Law.  

Over 19,000 Afghans applied for and received Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for their work assisting U.S. military forces over the last 20 years. But the federal government has been slow to process these claims. Afghan interpreters who assisted U.S. forces are among those waiting for a ticket to America. They and their families are waiting under the threat of Taliban violence. 

D’Agata said that the backlog on processing the families is so substantial that “if they started right now, and we’re at full sprint, it would take almost five years just to clear the backlog.” 

This week the Biden administration launched “Operation Allies Refuge,” a program to relocate SIV applicants out of Afghanistan while their cases are processed. Flights out of Afghanistan to as-yet unnamed countries or territories will start in late July.  

HIghlights from this week’s episode: 

  • D’Agata on Taliban control of Afghanistan: “It has stunned everybody — the Afghans, Americans, the White House — how quickly the Taliban advance in the offensive has gone on in the past six weeks or so.” 
  • Potential for diplomatic solution between the Taliban and Afghan government: “I can’t really see a diplomatic solution. There may be a diplomatic solution, but the Afghan government, the Afghan people, sadly, are really going to be staring down any kind of negotiations through the barrel of a gun.” 
  • Taliban motives in reclaiming Afghanistan: “They feel that they’re fighting on behalf of Afghanistan itself. They feel that they are the true Afghanistan, that the Afghan government is a puppet government that’s been put in place by Western powers, namely the United States. So, yes, they are an insurgency, but as far as they’re concerned, they are the true Afghans.” 
  • Helping Afghan interpreters who worked with the U.S. military leave: “If they started right now and we’re at full sprint, it would take almost five years just to clear the backlog. So they’re going to have to speed things up. They’re looking at seventy thousand people, if you include the families. Nineteen thousand interpreters and their families.” 

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