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Biden sending 5K troops back into Afghanistan as Taliban advances and Afghanis fear the worst

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 8/14/2021 Marie Szaniszlo
a group of people walking down a dirt road: Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.  The Taliban have completed their sweep of the country’s south on Friday, as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that is gradually encircling Kabul, just weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end its two-decade war. (AP Photo/Gulabuddin Amiri) © Provided by Boston Herald Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. The Taliban have completed their sweep of the country’s south on Friday, as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that is gradually encircling Kabul, just weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end its two-decade war. (AP Photo/Gulabuddin Amiri)

When Zarmina heard that President Biden said on Saturday that he had authorized the deployment of 5,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, for the first time in weeks she felt a glimmer of hope for her native country.

And then she heard that the troops — up from 3,000 announced earlier last week — were solely to help evacuate U.S. and allied personnel, not to help save the country from Taliban fighters who had taken control of nearly all of the country and encircled the capital of Kabul.

“We’re very disappointed and angry at the Americans,” said the 43-year-old co-owner of Helmand Restaurant in Cambridge, who was too afraid to give her full name because the fear she feels for Afghanistan has followed her here. “All I want for my country is peace. But the way they handled it is not peace.”

The fall on Saturday of Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth largest city, which Afghan forces and two powerful former warlords had pledged to defend, hands the insurgents control over all of northern Afghanistan, confining the Western-backed government to the center and east.

On Saturday, Biden made the last-minute decision to re-insert 1,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, reflecting the dire state of security as the Taliban seized control of multiple Afghan cities in a few short days. The need for more forces also called into question whether Biden would meet his Aug. 31 deadline for fully withdrawing combat forces as Biden hastily sent 3,000 in earlier this week, and has since boosted the number to 5,000.

The Taliban just in the past few days captured Herat and Kandahar, the country’s second- and third-largest cities, before adding the fourth-largest on Saturday. They now control about 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed government with a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as the capital, Kabul.

For weeks, as the Taliban has advanced, Zarmina has watched the news with a growing sense of dread.


Video: Biden under pressure as Taliban makes advances in Afghanistan (NBC News)

Biden under pressure as Taliban makes advances in Afghanistan
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But on Saturday, as they encircled the capital, her dread turned to terror.

“We’re begging the world to free our country,” she said. “Don’t leave us alone.”

Her brother, sister and their families live in Kandahar province, which the Taliban fled from in December 2001, after its defeat by U.S. forces. But last week, the jihadist group regained control of Kandahar city as it swept across Afghanistan, seizing most of the country in the wake of the pullout of American forces. Since then, she has been unable to reach her family.

About two weeks earlier, she had spoken to her sister and brother, and they had described a country in chaos, their children too afraid to sleep at night because of the bombing, and people sleeping in the street, without food or water.

“We have food on the table here,” she said in the restaurant her husband bought in 2019.

And then she wept.

“All I want for my country is peace,” she said again. “When the Americans came, we thought there was a chance that our country would move forward. Instead, it’s moving backward.”

She is afraid about what life will likely be like for her siblings’ daughters in particular under Taliban rule.

“They’re not going to have the education and know the value of their rights,” Zarmina said. “We fear they won’t get what they deserve.”

When Biden was elected, she hoped that he would stand up for Afghanistan. Instead, she said, he is abandoning it.

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