Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank technocrat and author of the book “Fixing Failed States,” gathered officials on Saturday, Aug. 7, for a conference on improving relations between the attorney general’s office and local officials. He spent much of the rest of the day on the emerald-green lawn of the presidential palace, reading a book, according to a palace official.
By then, the Afghan state was collapsing. The number of local districts under Kabul’s control was diminishing almost by the hour. Kunduz, the biggest city in the northeast, fell the following night. Within 24 hours, other provincial capitals followed, many without a fight. Taliban fighters seized bases full of U.S.-supplied arms and turned them on a demoralized Afghan army unable to resupply troops with weapons, food or water.
President Biden was at his home in Wilmington, Del., where he played a round of golf at the Fieldstone Golf Club and then held a virtual meeting with Team USA to congratulate them on their performance at the Tokyo Olympics. The White House said he was briefed on Afghanistan in between.
The U.S. Embassy on Sunday, Aug. 8, said Americans should leave Afghanistan on the first available flight. Afghans who knew they would be hunted down in a Taliban takeover talked of fleeing. Yet plenty of spaces remained on outbound flights.
The thinking was that the insurgents wouldn’t attack Kabul before the U.S. military withdrawal slated for Aug. 31. Many Washington officials were on vacation, and the attention of those in town focused on the infrastructure bill.