By : Jacob Rosen , CBS NEWS
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.