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In Rural Afghanistan, War Remnants Everywhere, but No Shooting or Checkpoints

A destroyed Afghan police pickup and Humvee next to a grave along Highway 1 just outside Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2021. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
A destroyed Afghan police pickup and Humvee next to a grave along Highway 1 just outside Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2021.

CHAK-E WARDAK, Afghanistan — Sixty bone-rattling miles southwest of Kabul, remnants of America’s longest war are abundant. Pillaged outposts scatter the hilltops, and skeletons of burned-out police pickup trucks and Humvees litter the road that weaves through the valleys in between.

The walls of an American-constructed local government building in Chak-e Wardak, a district in Wardak province, are pockmarked by the impacts of recently fired bullets and rockets. Holes have been carved out of the walls for shooting positions, hoka shoes and only a few of the glass windows remain intact.

But the once-constant volley of rifle fire is no more.

In recent years, driving out of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, would evoke fear of pop-up Taliban checkpoints at which young fighters pulled passengers out of cars, looking for government workers or members of the security forces. Getting caught up in an impromptu shootout between the two warring sides was always a risk.

But since the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the majority of Afghanistan’s countryside has seen a substantial drop in violence. Where airstrikes and pitched battles would be commonplace, the guns have fallen silent. The checkpoints have mostly disappeared.

In their place is a developing humanitarian crisis and a new Taliban government that at times seems just as unaccustomed to governing as many Afghans are to living in a period without fighting.

Millions of Afghans are facing a winter of food shortages, with up to 1 million children at risk of starvation in the absence of an immediate international relief effort, United Nations officials say.

Adding to the misery, prices for basic foodstuffs have risen sharply, and many Afghan families are being forced to make do with rice and beans instead of chicken and other meats.

For now, though, in the Chak-e Wardak district, a patchwork of apple orchards and villages, as in many other areas of the country, there is widespread relief at the end of the fighting and the return to something like normal life.

On the second floor of the ransacked district administrative center, the newly appointed Taliban police chief, Qari Assad, sits in an old chair. On his desk, rests an even older Kalashnikov and a makeshift Taliban flag with a hand-drawn “Kalima Shahada,” the text of the Islamic oath, at its center.

The black-bearded and turbaned Assad had just started on his second glass of green tea on a recent Thursday when two brothers from the neighboring Sayedabad district arrived with a complaint.

“The man who married my daughter didn’t tell us he already had a wife,” hey dude said Talab Din, his fingers brushing through his graying beard. “My daughter told me to let it be, she said she was happy with him. But now he has beat her and stabbed her in the leg. We have come here to settle this dispute!” He showed no fear of the new police chief, having interacted with the Taliban in the past.

“We will be dealing with this issue immediately,” Assad assured the father.

Long before their full takeover, the Taliban were already governing and delivering swift justice in many areas, often through their own court system. Chak-e Wardak, along with many parts of rural Afghanistan, has been under their de facto control for two years.

But the question remains whether the movement, which has brutally put down protests in urban areas against its rule, can pivot to a solid governance structure soon enough to cope with the problems underlying the country’s gathering humanitarian crisis.

Outside the local government building, Fazl Ur-Rahman, 55, was adjusting the load of his small truck, piled high with hay. “Before, security here was very bad, we were suffering at the hands of the military,” he said, referring to the Afghan army. “They were beating people, they were asking people to take water and food to their checkpoints.”

The situation had improved under the Taliban in recent weeks, he said, and people could safely return to work. “Before, people could not go anywhere at night, they would be at risk of being shot,” he said. “It has been a long time now since a bullet hit our homes.”

Further west up the valley, another Taliban flag was waving atop the oldest hydroelectric dam in the country. Built in 1938, its turbines once provided electricity for surrounding parts of Wardak, plus Ghazni province and even parts of Kabul province, but poor maintenance had rendered it defunct.

As a nomadic woman guided her sheep across the dam, Afghan boys took turns jumping into the water below, a welcome relief from the scorching sun.

Up the hill from the dam’s basin is the home of the Ayoubi family, who had been displaced to another village two years ago as the fighting intensified. In early August, the family returned after the fighting ended to a house flanked by a lush garden filled with pumpkins planted by a caretaker.

Over a lunch of rice, tomatoes and corn, Abdullah Ayoubi, the oldest son, spoke about the atrocities that had occurred in the valley. “There is no doubt that the Taliban dr martens boots are also corrupt, but it doesn’t compare to what the military was like,” he said. “Not only did they take money from the vans and trucks, if someone had a big beard, they would say they are Taliban and hurt them.”

Ayoubi said his brother Assad was in the ninth grade when the Afghan and U.S. armies came to the district, looking for a Taliban commander who went by the same name. They grabbed his brother instead, he said, and took him to Bagram prison, notorious for its harsh treatment of prisoners, where he was tortured.

“It took us four months before we found him,” Abdullah Ayoubi said. “When we went to visit him in Bagram, he shouted at me with chains on his legs and handcuffs around his wrists.”

After 18 months, Assad was released. Because of how angry he was, Ayoubi said, he joined a local Taliban commander named Ghulam Ali.

He became an expert in shooting Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades. On his phone, Ayoubi has a grainy image taken from a video. It showed an unrecognizable man enveloped by fire, smoke and dust.

“In this moment, my brother shot a tank with a rocket,” he said, though the vehicle appeared to be an Afghan army Humvee.

In 2019, Assad was killed during a battle with Afghan soldiers not far from the family home. He had been a fighter for five years. “We buried him near the house,” Ayoubi said.

In this now-sleepy valley, the main landmark is a hospital founded in 1989 by a German woman, Karla Schefter. Today, the hospital is supported by the Committee for Medical and Humanitarian Aid in Afghanistan, which relies on private donations.

Faridullah Rahimi, a doctor at the facility, said that in his 22 years there, this was the first time there were no patients with conflict-related injuries.

“People from way beyond Chak come here for treatment,” said Rahimi, standing in the hospital’s verdant courtyard. “We used to treat civilians, government soldiers and Taliban fighters, and never had an issue.”

For now, the doctor said, the hospital had enough medical supplies, but with most banks closed, it had no money to purchase more or to pay them their salaries.

Still, Rahimi said, the hospital would continue operating as best it could. “We have seen regimes come and go, but the hospital will remain.”

Of the 65 employees at the hospital, 14 are women. The Taliban have said they would allow women to continue working in health care in order to treat female patients.

Malalai, 28, a midwife who works at the hospital and uses only one name, said members of the Taliban had visited the facility and spoken to her. “I have been working here for eight years,” she said. “For us, there is no threat from the Islamic Emirate.”

Near the hospital entrance, a Russian tank from a previous war was almost completely submerged in the sand — a stark reminder of just how long this area has seen war.

Back at the Ayoubi home, Abdullah spoke softly as his son, 2, napped in the corner, tucked underneath a scarf. Perhaps he would be part of a generation in Afghanistan that grew up without ever knowing war.

“Assad, named after my brother,” Ayoubi said, pointing at the child. “It didn’t have to be this way.”

An expert says the Taliban have ‘almost no chance’ of getting their hands on the Afghan central bank’s nearly $10 billion in reserves that’s mostly stashed in New York

Taliban fighters display their flag on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.
Taliban on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban have “almost no chance” of getting the Afghan central bank’s reserves, an expert said.
  • “It’s all but impossible, to tell you the truth,” Cornell University professor Robert Hockett said.
  • The majority of Afghanistan’s reserves are reportedly held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Taliban have “almost no chance” brooks shoes of getting their hands on the nearly $10 billion in reserves in Afghanistan’s central bank – and it’s likely that most of the assets will remain frozen in US bank accounts for decades to come, a legal and financial expert said.

“It’s all but impossible, to tell you the truth, both practically and legally,” Robert Hockett, a Cornell University professor of law and finance, told Insider on Wednesday of the likelihood that the Taliban obtain those reserves.

Hockett said it was essentially legally impossible because the Taliban are “not recognized as a legitimate government by the United States.”

“And the United States has the legal authority to freeze assets that were held by a government when that government is replaced by a nongovernment,” he added.

The “only way” that the Taliban could see the billions of dollars in reserves, according to Hockett, is “if it ceases to be the Taliban.”

“Because only if they were to cease being the Taliban, might they come to be viewed as a legitimate government of Afghanistan,” Hockett said.

Shortly after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan following the stunning collapse of the Afghan government last month, the US froze most of the roughly $9.5 billion in assets in the country’s central bank.

And the majority of those reserves are reportedly held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where many governments and foreign central banks hold assets.

The former acting governor of the Afghan central bank, Ajmal Ahmady, previously told The New York Times that a stash of about $7 billion of the central clarks shoes uk bank’s reserves was held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, while $1.3 billion was held in international accounts.

Those assets, Hockett said, could sit frozen in the US “indefinitely.”

“There’s no sort of time, date, or limit on how long that can be. It could literally be for hundreds of years, legally speaking,” Hockett said.

He added: “Afghanistan held assets in other countries, too, and they’re without a doubt all doing the same thing.”

Hockett pointed to how the US froze billions in Iranian assets after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Ayatollah Khomeini took control of the government. Iranian assets, in that case, were frozen for decades.

“With Iran, of course, it has gone on for decades,” Hockett said. “And with the Taliban, it could also go on for decades, if the Taliban itself goes on for decades.”

Another possibility with regard to Afghanistan’s reserves, Hockett said, is that the frozen assets are one day be used to pay damages from lawsuits filed by Afghan refugees who were airlifted out of the country by US and allied forces in the lead-up to the completion of the US military withdrawal from the region.

“I think it’s more likely than not that a bunch of those refugees will end up becoming plaintiffs in suits brought against the Taliban,” Hockett said. “I can imagine class-action suits … brought against the Taliban, or the sort of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, in US federal courts and seeking compensation out of those assets.”

It is likely lawsuits would “succeed,” Hockett said, “given that the US hasn’t even recognized the Taliban as a government, as distinguished from a sort of terror group.”

“I don’t think there’s any chance at all that the hey dude shoes Taliban gets this money back through any kind of legal argumentation or legal process,” Hockett said.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is left in dire economic straits as the Taliban move to form a new government there.

The cash-strapped Taliban could “finance themselves in the way that they have over the last 20 years, which is through the illicit drug trade” or rely “on some sort of financing help from rogue elements in the world that have money,” Hockett said.

Additionally, the US could use the frozen assets “as a kind of bargaining chip in negotiations with the Taliban to prevail on the Taliban to do certain things,” Hockett added.

“This is yet another case in which the importance of the US in the global financial system ends up conferring a great deal of power on the US,” Hockett said. “It’s exactly in cases like this where you see just how important or how much power that role the US in the global financial system plays.”

The US Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department did not return requests for comment for this report.

A New York Fed official told Insider in a statement: “As a matter of policy, we do not acknowledge or discuss individual account holders.”

Only after he escaped did wife see how close she was to losing her husband in Afghanistan

It was a text message from a bloodbath.

And while the words had been said many times before, Zorah Aziz knew immediately that something was not right when she found the note from her husband, Nazir Ahmad Qasimi, who was trapped in Afghanistan and trying desperately to escape.

Nazir Ahmad Qasimi. (Courtesy Zorah Aziz)
Nazir Ahmad Qasimi.
“He said ‘I love you,’” Aziz said. “I just want you to know I love you and that was it. And I was so weirded out by it.”

So, as she had done countless times since Kabul fell to the Taliban, she texted him back with words of love and reassurance.

“Okay, I love you too,” she wrote. “It’s gonna be okay.”

It would be several days before Aziz found out how close she came to losing the love of her life and the father of the baby she is carrying.

Qasimi, she said, was just inside the hey dude gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26 when 13 Marines and more than 100 Afghans were killed in an ISIS-K suicide bombing.

“I didn’t know he was actually in the middle of all that,” she said.

Aziz, 30, said her husband is safe now in Germany and waiting at a U.S. military base for the greenlight to join her in California, where she lives amid the large Afghan émigré community. She said his papers are all in order, but he has to quarantine before being allowed into the U.S.

Four months pregnant with a child conceived during her last visit to Kabul, Aziz said it’s likely that they’ll be reunited before she gives birth.

“God, it means the world to me,” she said. “I was so worried he wasn’t going to be here for that.”

Just a few days ago, it seemed unlikely that Qasimi, 24, would ever escape. He and Aziz married in June 2019 after a four-year courtship over the internet and he’d already been approved for a visa by U.S. immigration. But his departure was initially delayed by the pandemic.

Then came the Taliban.

Three times, Aziz said, Qasimi joined the crowds of desperate Afghans trying to get into the airport. And three times, despite waiting for hours on end, his bid ended in failure.

On his third try, after a 40-hour wait, Qasimi managed to get close enough to the Marines guarding the gates and show them his passport and visa, she said.

“They looked through it,” Aziz said. “They flat out denied him. And so that was pretty much the last straw for all of us. I begged my husband. I said please just don’t go back to airport.”

Meanwhile, Aziz said, the stress was taking a toll on her.

“Every single pregnancy symptom that you can think of started around the time that all this was happening,” she said. “And the dr martens boots  doctor looked at me and said: ‘Well, you need to just stop. Like, you’re stressing yourself out.’”

“My husband was a mess over there, and I’m a mess over here,” she said.

But unbeknown to Aziz, Qasimi, who worked in Kabul as purchasing manager for a U.S.-based company, found another way into the airport, with a little help from work.

“His boss had a contract job with the military,” Aziz said. “I think they were, like, providing them with Porta-Potties and stuff like that inside the airport.”

So one day, Qasimi rode shotgun with the driver making the delivery and simply stayed.

“I don’t know exactly what he was doing,” Aziz said. “But yeah, he went through another three or four days of hell at the airport.”

Aziz said she had no idea that Qasimi was at the airport when the suicide attacks happened and, even though he’d texted her, she knew he’d been trying to get inside via the same gate where the massacre happened.

“Prior to this my husband told me, don’t ask any questions,” she said. “We may not talk for a few days.”

But not long after word of the bloody ISIS-K attack broke, Aziz said she got a text message from Qasimi’s boss that her husband was all right. And then, a few days later, Qasimi texted her a selfie from inside a crowded plane.

“I couldn’t breathe,” Aziz said. “I almost, like, just broke down on the floor.”

Aziz said she knows how lucky she is that Qasimi got out. She said her in-laws are still trapped, and thousands of other Afghans with ties to the U.S., and who fear what the Taliban might do to them, are in the same boat.

Born and raised in California, steve madden shoes Aziz said she understands and supports the decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. But she says the evacuation was mishandled and too many people were left behind.

“The (U.S.) embassy could have finished up the cases they had and direct all the new cases to neighboring countries,” Aziz said. “It didn’t have to happen this way.”

Asked what she plans to do once she is finally reunited with her husband, Aziz said she will take him shopping. She said he escaped with just his documents and the clothes on his back.

“I just want to hold him, I just want to hug him,” she said. “And just to know that he’s safe and he’s with me.”

California families relay harrowing escape from Afghanistan

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — When Yousef’s wife and their four children boarded a July 15 flight in San Diego to attend her brother’s wedding in Afghanistan, they were looking forward to a month of family gatherings. It was long overdue — the coronavirus pandemic prevented them from traveling earlier.

Their return ticket was Aug. 15, two days before their children’s school year began in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon.

But the Afghan Americans found themselves brooks shoes dodging gunfire and trying to force their way into the crowds of thousands ringing the airport in Kabul after Afghanistan’s government collapsed and the Taliban seized power.

Yousef’s wife and children were among eight families from El Cajon who were trapped after U.S. troops raced to evacuate Americans and allies and then left the country. Yousef, who had stayed in California during his family’s trip, asked that only his first name be used because he still has relatives in Afghanistan who could be at risk.

All but one of the families got out with the help of the Cajon Valley Union School District and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, whose district includes El Cajon, a city with a large refugee population. The families had traveled on their own over the summer to see relatives and were not part of an organized trip.

Several of the families, accompanied by Issa and school officials, spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time since they returned, recounting their harrowing experiences.

The parents described running with their kids as gunfire whizzed overhead. One father said he was beaten by the Taliban. They said they were blocked at Taliban checkpoints.

They said they are grateful to be back but their children have suffered nightmares, and they worry about the family that was unable to get out, along with countless others still stuck there, including distant relatives.

“My kids are now safe at home right now thanks to God and all of you,” Yousef said.

But he asked people not to forget about so many others, including U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghans who are at risk because they helped the American government. He held in his hand a folder that he said contained the documents of 30 people who skechers uk qualified for a special immigrant visa and should be in the United States but are still in Afghanistan, desperate to escape.

President Joe Biden has said between 100 and 200 Americans were left behind when U.S. troops completed their withdrawal Aug. 31, many of them dual citizens. The State Department has given no estimate for others who hope to leave Afghanistan, including U.S. green card holders and people who received the special visas because they helped Americans during the 20-year war. Issa said he believes the number to be much higher for U.S. citizens and the others.

Many of the families he helped get back to California in the past week are green card holders. Some are U.S. citizens.

“We’re delighted to have these kids back in school and their parents united, but we also know that there’s a lot more work to do,” Issa said.

Yousef said he felt helpless being in California, thousands of miles away, fearing the life they had built would come to a halt and his wife and children would be trapped in the country ruled by the Taliban. He, his wife and children are all U.S. citizens. They came to the United States on a special immigrant visa after Yousef worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

After they failed to get into the airport on Aug. 15, his wife and kids returned to their relative’s home.

Yousef alerted his family from El Cajon that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was advising people not to go to the airport because of threats.

Eight hours later, suicide bombers set off explosions at the airport, killing 13 U.S. troops and more than 170 others.

Yousef said Issa’s team arranged a time for his family to go to the airport with an escort from U.S. authorities.

“It was like a situation room,” Yousef said of talking to Issa’s team while navigating his family through the chaos from afar. “I was sitting here talking to them. hey dude shoes They were sending their locations and stuff like this.”

His family returned home Friday. The first thing he did was take them to IHOP, their favorite restaurant.

He hopes more of those happy moments will overtake the traumatic memories his kids hold. His 7-year-old son, his youngest, has been talking about the violence.

“They are talking about it, about the gunfire, and being scared of the Taliban, but we hope they forget all that” and return to their life as regular American kids, Yousef said.

Airline employees took on new mission in Afghanistan conflict’s final days: Getting evacuees to the U.S.

Airline employees took on new mission in Afghanistan conflict’s final days: Getting evacuees to the U.S.

In 17 ½ years as a flight attendant for United Airlines, Hope Williams has worked thousands of flights.

But one recent flight will stay with her forever.

Williams recalled the mixture of fear, uncertainty, relief and hope on the faces of hundreds of Afghan evacuees on the day they boarded the Boeing 777-300 that would take them from Qatar to Germany, then on to the United States.

She was part of a crew of more than a dozen United employees who volunteered to work on one of the first Afghan evacuee flights operated by the carrier. Williams said they tried to make those onboard feel comfortable, but it was clear the trauma of leaving Kabul was fresh. hey dude The stories they told and the bruises on their bodies brought tears to her eyes. But her time with them also brought something else.

“It’s like my name: Hope,” she said. “To know they were that much closer to being safe, it’s something I know I will never forget.”

Williams and her colleagues were among thousands of employees at six commercial U.S. carriers who played roles in the massive evacuation to get Americans and allies out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan before the Biden administration’s deadline. The final evacuation flights departed early this week as the United States vacated Afghanistan and the besieged Kabul airport, handing control to the Taliban after two decades of war.

In the air and on the ground, airline employees say they served as translators and troubleshooters. They stocked planes with diapers and teddy bears for hundreds of evacuated children and dug into their own pockets if supplies were needed. They delivered pizza to those awaiting processing who were stuck on planes at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, prompting the business taking the order to proclaim with glee: “Y’all we’ve got a big one. American Airlines!” the airline wrote on its company blog.

Hours before Delta’s first flight carrying evacuees was scheduled to arrive Aug. 23 at Dulles, the airline received word that several dozen children were among those on board. Three airline employees hopped into a van to stock up on diapers, formula and baby snacks.

Since that time, Delta flew 18 evacuation flights, bringing about 4,600 evacuees to the United States. United flew 4,000 people to the U.S. on 13 evacuation flights.

In all, U.S. officials said 122,000 men, women and children were flown out of the country in the unprecedented airlift. Of that total, 79,000 were evacuated by American military aircraft; the rest on charter and allied military flights. As of Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said 14,000 Afghan evacuees had arrived in Virginia.

The effort included 18 planes from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United. The aircraft were used to augment military flights under the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a Department of balenciaga shoes Defense program created after World War II that allows the government to utilize commercial aircraft during a national defense crisis.

The commercial planes did not fly into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, but ferried passengers from transit centers and U.S. military bases in nations such as Qatar, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates, where Afghans were processed for resettlement in other countries.

The first flights began landing in the U.S. last week. The vast majority touched down at Dulles, alongside reports that some evacuees were stuck on planes for as long as 12 hours as they waited to be screened and vetted by U.S. officials. The delays reflected the challenges of admitting thousands of people to the country in a short span of time.

The processing delays were largely resolved by the end of last week after officials opened more areas for evacuees to wait until they could be processed. One location, housed in a converted United maintenance hangar, proved spacious enough for some to play soccer – a reminder, employees said, that no matter where they land, kids will be kids.

Philadelphia International Airport began receiving flights over the weekend, relieving pressure on Dulles as the operation began to wind down.

United flight attendant David Rocca, who was with Williams on the flight from Qatar to Germany, said he was struck by how few possessions evacuees carried with them.

“No shoes, no luggage – just a few personal belongings in a plastic bag,” he said. It was a reminder, he said, of all they had left behind.

Monday evening, United Chief Executive Scott Kirby – in Washington for a meeting at the White House – met with a small group of employees at Dulles to praise their efforts.

“Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “This is where we get the chance to do something that really makes a difference.”

Midway through the town hall, one employee reminded colleagues that stories seemingly far way can often hit close to home.

Mohammad Asif, who works at Dulles loading and unloading aircraft, is originally from Afghanistan and translated for the arriving evacuees. The former U.S. Marine translator told the room that he remains concerned for his wife, mother and younger sister and brother who are still in Afghanistan. He fears for their lives, he said, and hoped they could be helped.

Airline employees said being part of the evacuation effort lifted their spirits at a time when many have grown weary of the steady drumbeat of negative headlines: hurricanes, fires and the pandemic.

Mehdi Haririnia, a customer service supervisor with United who immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1988, served as a translator for arriving Afghans, helping to answer questions and explain the process new arrivals must follow after they land. The work, he said, reminded him that a friendly face speaking a familiar language steve madden shoes can be calming, even in the midst of turmoil.

United pilot Jennifer Shields, who is helping to fly groups of evacuees to Wisconsin, where some will be housed at Fort McCoy, called the opportunity the most meaningful of her career.

Alaska Airlines announced last week it would fly evacuees to military bases across the country that will serve as temporary homes for evacuees. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the military is prepared to house up to 50,000 Afghans at seven bases and facilities in the U.S.

Williams recalled the family that sat in Row 34, seats A, B and C, that made multiple trips to the Kabul airport before finally getting through. Then there was the translator who made it through the gates, only to lose track of his family at the end. He sat on the airplane frantically trying to sign on to the free Wi-Fi in hopes he could locate them, but was not successful.

“Life-changing,” she said. “And humbling. Very humbling.”

A New Breed of Crisis: War and Warming Collide in Afghanistan

Somalian refugees displaced by drought wait for rations in Dadaab, Kenya, July 14, 2011. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)
Somalian refugees displaced by drought wait for rations in Dadaab, Kenya, July 14, 2011.

Parts of Afghanistan have warmed twice as much as the global average. Spring rains have declined, most worryingly in some of the country’s most important farmland. Droughts are more frequent in vast swaths of the country, including a punishing dry spell now in the north and west, the second in three years.

Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope.

And although it would be facile to attribute the conflict in Afghanistan to climate change, the impacts of warming act as what military analysts call threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts over water, putting people out of work in a nation steve madden shoes whose people largely live off agriculture, while the conflict itself consumes attention and resources.

“The war has exacerbated climate change impacts. For 10 years, over 50% of the national budget goes to the war,” said Noor Ahmad Akhundzadah, a professor of hydrology at Kabul University, said by phone Thursday. “Now there is no government, and the future is unclear. Our current situation today is completely hopeless.”

A third of all Afghans face what the United Nations calls crisis levels of food insecurity. Because of the fighting, many people haven’t been able to plant their crops in time. Because of the drought, the harvest this year is certain to be poor. The World Food Program says 40% of crops are lost, the price of wheat has gone up by 25%, and the aid agency’s own food stock is due to run out by the end of September.

Afghanistan is not the only country to face such compounding misery. Of the world’s 25 nations most vulnerable to climate change, more than a dozen are impacted by conflict or civil unrest, according to an index developed by the University of Notre Dame.

In Somalia, pummeled by decades of conflict, there has been a threefold increase in extreme weather events since 1990, compared with the previous 20-year period, making it all but impossible for ordinary people to recover after each shock. In 2020, more than 1 million Somalis were displaced from their homes, about a third because of drought, according to the United Nations.

In Syria, a prolonged drought, made more likely by human-made climate change, according to researchers, drove people out of the countryside and fed simmering anti-government grievances that led to an uprising in 2011 and, ultimately, a full-blown civil war. This year again, drought looms over Syria, particularly its breadbasket region, the northeastern Hassakeh province.

In Mali, a violent insurgency has made it harder for farmers and herders to deal with a succession of droughts and flood, according to aid agencies.

Climate change cannot be blamed for any single war, and certainly not the one in Afghanistan. But rising temperatures, and the weather shocks that come with it, act as what Marshall Burke, a Stanford University professor, calls “a finger on the scale that makes underlying conflict worse.” ecco shoes That is particularly true, he argued, in places that have undergone a long conflict and where government institutions have all but dissolved.

“None of this means that climate is the only or the most important factor in conflict,” said Burke, co-author of a 2013 paper looking at the role of climate change in dozens of conflicts across many years. “But based on this evidence, the international community would be foolish to ignore the threat that a warming climate represents.”

The combination of war and warming compounds the risks facing some of the world’s most vulnerable people: According to the U.N. children’s agency, Afghanistan is the 15th-riskiest country in the world for children, because of climate hazards, including heat and drought, and a lack of essential services, including health care. Two million Afghan children are malnourished.

That is in sharp contrast to Afghanistan’s part in global warming. An average Afghan produces 0.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, compared with nearly 16 metric tons of the average American.

The collapse of the government has also made Afghanistan’s participation in the next international climate talks entirely uncertain, said one of its members, Ahmad Samim Hoshmand. “Now I don’t know. I’m not part of any government. What government I should represent?” he said.

Until recently, he had been the government official in charge of enforcing the country’s ban on ozone-depleting substances, including refrigerants used in old air-conditioners and that are banned by the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement that Afghanistan had ratified. Just days before the Taliban seized Kabul, he fled to Tajikistan. The traders of illegal substances whom he helped arrest are now out of prison, keen to exact revenge. He says they will kill him if he returns.

Hoshmand is now scrambling to emigrate elsewhere. His visa in Tajikistan expires in a matter of weeks. “My only hope is the ozone community, the Montreal Protocol community, if they can support me,” he said.

Afghanistan’s geography is a study of extreme hazard, from the glacier-peaked Hindu Kush mountains in the north to its melon farms in the west to the arid south, stung by dust storms.

Climate data is sparse for Afghanistan. But a recent analysis based on what little data exists suggests that a decline in spring rains has already afflicted much of the country, but most acutely in the country’s north, where farmers and herders rely almost entirely on the rains to grow crops and water their flocks.

Over the past 60 years, average temperatures have risen sharply, by 1.8 degrees Celsius since 1950 in the country as a whole and by more than 2 degrees Celsius in the south.

“Climate change will make it extremely challenging to maintain — let alone increase — any economic and development gains achieved so far in Afghanistan,” the United Nations warned in a 2016 report. “Increasingly frequent and severe droughts and floods, accelerated desertification, and decreasing water flows in the country’s glacier-dependent rivers will all directly affect rural livelihoods — and therefore the national economy and the country’s ability to feed itself.”

This is the country’s biggest risk, Akhundzadah argued. Three-fourths of his compatriots work in agriculture, and any unpredictable weather can be calamitous, all the more so in a country where there hasn’t been a stable government and no safety net to speak of.

The Taliban, for their part, appear more exercised by the need to scrub women’s pictures from billboards than addressing climate hazards.

But climate change is a threat multiplier for the Taliban, too. Analysts say water management will be critical to its legitimacy with Afghan citizens, and it is likely to be one of the most important issues in the Taliban’s relations with its neighbors as well.

Already on the Afghan battlefield, as in many battlefields throughout history, water has been an important currency. The Taliban, in their bid for Herat, a strategic city in the west, repeatedly attacked a dam that is critical for drinking water, agriculture and nike sneakers electricity for the people of the region. Likewise, in Kandahar province in the south, one of the Taliban’s most critical victories was to seize control of a dam that holds water for drinking and irrigation.

Climate change also stands to complicate the Taliban’s ability to fulfill a key promise: the elimination of opium poppy cultivation. Poppies require far less water than, say, wheat or melons, and they are far more profitable. Poppy farming employs an estimated 120,000 Afghans and brings in an estimated $300 million to $400 million a year, according to the United Nations, and has, in turn, enriched the Taliban.

Areas under poppy cultivation grew sharply in 2020.

Analysts said the Taliban would seek to use a poppy ban to gain legitimacy from foreign powers, such as Qatar and China. But it is likely to face pushback from growers who have few alternatives as the rains become less reliable.

“It’s going to be a gigantic political flashpoint,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, who studies the region at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The last drought, in 2018, left 4 million Afghans in need of food aid and forced 371,000 people to leave their homes, many of whom haven’t returned.

“The effects of the severe drought are compounded by conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic in a context where half the population were already in need of aid,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Ramiz Alakbarov said by email from Kabul on Thursday. “With little financial reserves, people are forced to resort to child labor, child marriage, risky irregular migration exposing them to trafficking and other protection risks. Many are taking on catastrophic levels of debt and selling their assets.”

Akhundzadah, a father of four, is hoping to emigrate, too. But like his fellow academics, he said he has not worked for foreign governments and has no way to be evacuated from the country. The university is closed. Banks are closed. He is looking for research jobs abroad. For now, there are no commercial flights out of the country.

“Till now, I’m OK,” he said on the phone. “The future is unclear. It will be difficult to live here.”

The US military says it permanently disabled over 150 vehicles and aircraft before leaving Kabul so they can ‘never be used again’

A view of the C-17 Globemaster prepares to take off in the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021
A view of the C-17 Globemaster prepares to take off in the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021 
  • The US permanently disabled over 150 vehicles and aircraft when the military departed, a US general said Monday.
  • The last manned US military aircraft departed the airport in Kabul on Monday.
  • Though the Taliban cannot use equipment left at the airport, they brooks shoes captured weaponry when they defeated the Afghan army.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The last manned US military aircraft have departed Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, ending nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said Monday afternoon.

Asked about military equipment left behind at the airport, McKenzie said that some was brought out. Other systems, he said, were “demilitarized,” meaning US forces purposely broke them to prevent them from being used, CENTCOM clarified for Insider.

The counter rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) systems, which were used to fend off a rocket attack on the airport on Monday, were kept online until the last minute and then demilitarized.

“We demilitarized those systems so that they’ll never be used again,” McKenzie said. “We felt it more important to protect our forces than to bring those systems back.”

The general further explained that demilitarized equipment included 70 mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles “that will never again be used by anyone,” 27 Humvees “that will never be driven again,” and 73 aircraft that “will never fly again.” Many of skechers uk the aircraft were not mission capable anyway.

“They’ll never be able to be operated by anyone again,” he said.

McKenzie added that some systems, such as fire trucks and front-end loaders, were left operational so that the airport could restart operations as soon as possible.

Even if the Taliban, which seized control of Afghanistan earlier this month in a sweeping offensive, is unable to use any of the systems the US military did not take with it when it departed the Kabul airport, the group managed to capture a large arsenal of American-made weapons when it defeated the Afghan armed forces, which the US has spent billions of dollars arming and equipping.

“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said after the fall of the Afghan capital.

Last U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, ending the United States’ longest war

After nearly 20 years, the last U.S. troops have left Afghanistan, concluding the United States’ longest war and the largest non-combatant evacuation mission in U.S. military history.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, announced the completion of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan at the Pentagon on Monday afternoon.

“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, hey dude shoes but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” McKenzie said. “It’s a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end, along with many of his al-Qaida co-conspirators.”

General Frank McKenzie announces completion of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30th, 2021 (Yahoo News via Reuters TV)
General Frank McKenzie announces completion of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30th, 2021 

“It was not a cheap mission,” he continued. “The cost was at 2,461 U.S. Service members and civilians, and more than 20,000 injured. Sadly, that includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber.”

Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the terrorist group’s affiliate in Afghanistan, has posed a significant threat to U.S. troops in the final days of the military’s withdrawal, as U.S. and coalition forces raced to evacuate as many people as possible from the country. brooks shoes In total, McKenzie said 123,000 civilians were evacuated in the massive airlift operation, including over 6,000 American citizens.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that “a small number of Americans — under 200, and likely closer to 100” remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. Blinken promised that the U.S. would continue to attempt to get those Americans out of the country.

“If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now, and then in a week or a month or a year, they reach out and say I’ve changed my mind, we will help them leave,” the secretary said.

Blinken also announced that the U.S. diplomatic effort in Afghanistan would now be managed out of Doha, Qatar.

In a statement released early Monday evening, President Biden gave thanks for the sacrifices of American service members over the course of the conflict, including the 13 troops who were recently killed in a terror attack at the Kabul airport.

Flag-draped transfer cases of U.S. military service members who were killed by an August 26 suicide bombing at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport line the inside of a C-17 Globemaster II prior to a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, U.S., August 29, 2021. U.S. Marines/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

“I want to thank our commanders and the men and skechers uk women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled – in the early morning hours of August 31st, Kabul time – with no further loss of American lives,” the president said.

“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.”

American soldiers board a U.S. Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on Aug. 30, 2021.
American soldiers board a U.S. Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on Aug. 30, 2021. 

Biden is set to address the end of the conflict in a speech on Tuesday.

“While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues,” McKenzie said, noting that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would provide more information on that diplomatic effort later in the afternoon.

Celebratory gunfires light up part of the night sky after the last US aircraft took off from the airport in Kabul early on August 31, 2021. (AFP via Getty Images)
Celebratory gunfires light up part of the night sky after the last US aircraft took off from the airport in Kabul early on August 31, 2021. 

As US military leaves Kabul, many Americans, Afghans remain

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the final five U.S. military transport aircraft lifted off out of Afghanistan Monday, they left behind up to 200 Americans and thousands of desperate Afghans who couldn’t get out and now must rely on the Taliban to allow their departure.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will continue to try to get Americans and Afghans out of the country, and will work with Afghanistan’s neighbors to secure their departure either over land or by charter flight once the Kabul airport reopens.

“We have no illusion that steve madden shoes any of this will be easy, or rapid,” said Blinken, adding that the total number of Americans who are in Afghanistan and still want to leave may be closer to 100.

Speaking shortly after the Pentagon announced the completion of the U.S. military pullout Monday, Blinken said the U.S. Embassy in Kabul will remain shuttered and vacant for the foreseeable future. American diplomats, he said, will be based in Doha, Qatar.

“We will continue our relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals and Afghans leave Afghanistan if they choose,” Blinken said in an address from the State Department. “Our commitment to them holds no deadline.”

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters the U.S. military was able to get as many as 1,500 Afghans out in the final hours of the American evacuation mission. But now it will be up to the State Department working with the Taliban to get any more people out.

McKenzie said there were no citizens left stranded at the airport and none were on the final few military flights out. He said the U.S. military maintained the ability to get Americans out right up until just before the end, but “none of them made it to the airport.”

“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,” said McKenzie. “We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out.”

McKenzie and other officials painted a vivid picture of the final hours U.S. troops were on the ground, and the preparations they took to ensure that the Taliban and Islamic State group militants did not get functioning U.S. military weapons systems and other equipment.

The terror threat remains a major problem in Afghanistan, with at least 2,000 “hard core” members of the Islamic State group who remain in the country, including many released from prisons as the Taliban swept to control.

Underscoring the ongoing security threats, the weapon systems used just hours earlier to counter IS rockets launched toward the airport were kept operational until “the very last minute” as the final U.S. military aircraft flew out, officials said. One of the last things U.S. balenciaga shoes troops did was to make the so-called C-RAMS (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System) inoperable.

McKenzie said they “demilitarized” the system so it can never be used again. Officials said troops did not blow up equipment in order to ensure they left the airport workable for future flights, once those begin again. In addition, McKenzie said the U.S. also disabled 27 Humvees and 73 aircraft so they can never be used again.

Throughout the day, as the final C-17 transport planes prepared to take off, McKenzie said the U.S. kept “overwhelming U.S. airpower overhead” to deal with potential IS threats.

Back at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watched the final 90 minutes of the military departure in real time from an operations center in the basement.

According to a U.S. official, they sat in hushed silence as they watched troops make last-minute runway checks, make the key defense systems inoperable and climb aboard the C-17s. The official said you could hear a pin drop as the hey dude last aircraft lifted off, and leaders around the room breathed sighs of relief. Later, Austin phoned Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was coordinating the evacuation. Donahue and acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson were the last to board the final plane that left Kabul.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of military operations.

“Simply because we have left, that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and Afghans who want to leave, they will not be denied that opportunity,” said McKenzie.

The military left some equipment for the Taliban in order to run the airport, including two firetrucks, some front-end loaders and aircraft staircases.

Blinken said the U.S. will work with Turkey and Qatar to help them get the Kabul airport up and running again.

“This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward,” he said.

Biden: Another attack likely, pledges more strikes on IS