Taliban take Kabul as US pulls out

Biden: Afghan chaos ‘gut-wrenching’ but stands by withdrawal

WASHINGTON (AP)- A defiant President Joe Biden rejected blame Monday for chaotic scenes of Afghans clinging to U.S. military planes in Kabul in a desperate bid to flee their home country after the Taliban’s easy victory over an Afghan military that America and NATO allies had spent two decades trying to build.

At the White House, Biden called the anguish of trapped Afghan civilians “gut-wrenching” and conceded the Taliban had achieved a much faster takeover of the country than his administration had expected. The U.S. rushed in troops to protect its own evacuating diplomats and others at the Kabul airport.

But the president expressed no second thoughts about his decision to stick by the U.S. commitment, formulated during the Trump administration, to end America’s longest war, no matter what.

“I stand squarely behind my decision” to finally withdraw U.S. combat forces, Biden said, while acknowledging the Afghan collapse played out far more quickly than the most pessimistic public forecasts of his administration. “This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” he said.

Despite declaring “the buck stops with me,” Biden placed almost all blame on Afghans for the shockingly rapid Taliban conquest.

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Kabul airport plunges into chaos as Taliban patrol capital

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)- Thousands of Afghans rushed into Kabul’s main airport Monday, some so desperate to escape the Taliban that they held onto a military jet as it took off and plunged to their deaths. At least seven people died in the chaos, U.S.

officials said, as America’s longest war ended with its enemy the victor.

The crowds came while the Taliban enforced their rule over the capital of 5 million people after a lightning advance across the country that took just over a week to dethrone the country’s Western-backed government. There were no major reports of abuses or fighting, but many residents stayed home and remained fearful after the insurgents’ takeover saw prisons emptied and armories looted.

A resolute U.S. President Joe Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw American forces and acknowledged the “gut-wrenching” images unfolding in Kabul. Biden said he faced a choice between honoring a previously negotiated withdrawal agreement or sending thousands more troops back to begin a third decade of war.

“After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” Biden said in a televised address from the White House.

The president said American troops should not be fighting and dying in a war “that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” He warned the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuation efforts.

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Haiti quake death toll rises to 1,419, injured now at 6,000

LES CAYES, Haiti (AP)- A hospital in southwestern Haiti, where a powerful earthquake flattened homes, shops and other buildings over the weekend, was so overwhelmed with patients that many had to lie in patios, corridors, verandas and hallways. Then a looming storm expected to bring heavy rains Monday night forced officials to relocate them as best they could given the hospital’s poor conditions.

Even those patients were somewhat fortunate. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency on Monday raised the death toll from Saturday’s

earthquake to 1,419 and the number of injured to 6,000, many of whom have had to wait under the burning heat, even on an airport tarmac, for help.

“We had planned to put up tents (in hospital patios), but we were told that could not be safe,” said Gede Peterson, director of Les Cayes General Hospital.

It is not the first time that staff has been forced to improvise.

The refrigeration in the hospital’s morgue has not worked for three months, but after the earthquake struck Saturday, staff had to store as many as 20 bodies in the small space. Relatives quickly came to take most to private embalming services or immediate burial. By Monday only three bodies were in the morgue.

The quake, centered about 125 kilometers (80 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, nearly razed some towns and triggered landslides that hampered rescue efforts in a country that is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti already was struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, gang violence, worsening poverty and the political uncertainty following the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise when the earthquake sent residents rushing to the streets.

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Sources: US to recommend COVID vaccine boosters at 8 months

WASHINGTON (AP) -U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, to ensure lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.

That’s according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

An announcement was expected as soon as this week, with doses beginning to be administered widely once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves vaccines. That action is expected for the Pfizer shot in the coming weeks.

U.S. health officials recommended boosters last week for some with weakened immune systems.

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Billions spent on Afghan army ultimately benefited Taliban

WASHINGTON (AP)- Built and trained at a two-decade cost of $83 billion, Afghan security forces collapsed so quickly and completely _ in some cases without a shot fired ,that the ultimate beneficiary of the American investment turned out to be the Taliban. They grabbed not only political power but also U.S.-supplied firepower, guns, ammunition, helicopters and more.

The Taliban captured an array of modern military equipment when they overran Afghan forces who failed to defend district centers.

Bigger gains followed, including combat aircraft, when the Taliban rolled up provincial capitals and military bases with stunning speed, topped by capturing the biggest prize, Kabul, over the weekend.

A U.S. defense official on Monday confirmed the Taliban’s sudden accumulation of U.S.-supplied Afghan equipment is enormous. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity. The reversal is an embarrassing consequence of misjudging the viability of Afghan government forces _ by the U.S. military as well as intelligence agencies _ which in some cases chose to surrender their vehicles and weapons rather than fight.

The U.S. failure to produce a sustainable Afghan army and police force, and the reasons for their collapse, will be studied for years by military analysts. The basic dimensions, however, are clear and are not unlike what happened in Iraq. The forces turned out to be hollow, equipped with superior arms but largely missing the crucial ingredient of combat motivation.

“Money can’t buy will. You cannot purchase leadership,” John Kirby, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said Monday.

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Detainee says China has secret jail in Dubai, holds Uyghurs

A young Chinese woman says she was held for eight days at a Chinese-run secret detention facility in Dubai along with at least two Uyghurs, in what may be the first evidence that China is operating a so-called “black site” beyond its borders.

The woman, 26-year-old Wu Huan, was on the run to avoid extradition back to China because her fiance was considered a Chinese dissident. Wu told The Associated Press she was abducted from a hotel in Dubai and detained by Chinese officials at a villa converted into a jail, where she saw or heard two other prisoners, both Uyghurs.

She was questioned and threatened in Chinese and forced to sign legal documents incriminating her fiance for harassing her, she said. She was finally released on June 8 and is now seeking asylum in the Netherlands.

While “black sites” are common in China, Wu’s account is the only testimony known to experts that Beijing has set one up in another country. Such a site would reflect how China is increasingly using its international clout to detain or bring back citizens it wants from overseas, whether they are dissidents, corruption suspects or ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs.

The AP was unable to confirm or disprove Wu’s account independently, and she could not pinpoint the exact location of the black site. However, reporters have seen and heard corroborating evidence including stamps in her passport, a phone recording of a Chinese official asking her questions and text messages that she sent from jail to a pastor helping the couple.

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Mask disputes, outbreaks make for rocky start of school year

The summer surge of the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus made for a disruptive start of the school year in many parts of the country Monday as hundreds of thousands of children returned to classrooms and parents, administrators and governors clashed over whether masks should be required.

Confusion reigned in several Texas school districts after the state Supreme Court stopped mask mandates in two of the state’s largest districts, the day before the first day of school in Dallas.

An Arizona judge upheld, at least temporarily, a mask mandate in a Phoenix district despite a new state law prohibiting such restrictions. One Colorado county posted sheriff’s deputies in schools on the first day of classes as a precaution after parents protested a last-minute mask mandate.

Public school authorities are committed to making up lost ground after frequent disruptions, including on- and-off remote learning, in the pandemic’s first year left millions of children behind in their studies, especially those of communities of color. The U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks in schools for students, staff and teachers.

Nowhere did Monday’s battles play out greater than in Texas, where some counties and school districts kept in place mask mandates and others rescinded them as schools reopened after Sunday’s court ruling.

The order by the state’s highest court _ entirely comprised of elected Republican justices _ halts mask requirements that county leaders in Dallas and San Antonio, which are run by Democrats, put in place as new infections soared.

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EXPLAINER: Western states face first federal water cuts

WASHINGTON (AP)- U.S. officials on Monday declared the first-ever water shortage from a river that serves 40 million people in the West, triggering cuts to some Arizona farmers next year amid a gripping drought.

Water levels at the largest reservoir on the Colorado River _ Lake Mead _ have fallen to record lows. Along its perimeter, a white “bathtub ring” of minerals outlines where the high water line once stood, underscoring the acute water challenges for a region facing a growing population and a drought that is being worsened by hotter, drier weather brought on by climate change.

States, cities, farmers and others have diversified their water sources over the years, helping soften the blow of the upcoming cuts. But federal officials said Monday’s declaration makes clear that conditions have intensified faster than scientists predicted in 2019, when some states in the Colorado River basin agreed to give up shares of water to maintain levels at Lake Mead.

“The announcement today is a recognition that the hydrology that was planned for years ago, but we hoped we would never see, is here,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton.

Lake Mead was formed by building the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. It is one of several man-made reservoirs that store water from the Colorado River, which supplies household water, irrigation for farms and hydropower to Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and parts of Mexico.

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Video shows desperate Afghans climbing US jet to escape

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)- In video footage that could become some of the defining images of the fall of Kabul, Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban takeover clung to the side of a departing U.S.

military jet as it rolled down the tarmac Monday. Some of them apparently fell to their death as the aircraft gained altitude.

Scores of people ran alongside the giant U.S. Air Force plane at the Kabul airport, and some managed to get a foothold before it took off.

U.S. authorities said that all told, at least seven people died during the chaotic evacuation at the airport, including several who fell from a military jet.

Video apparently of the same aircraft from a distance showed people watching as one or more objects plummeted to the ground.

People could be heard saying, “Look, one fell” and then, “Ohhh, another also fell.”

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US forward Carli Lloyd retiring after decorated career

U.S. forward Carli Lloyd is retiring after a decorated career that included a pair of World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals, as well as a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games.

The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year known for her dramatic hat-trick in the 2015 World Cup final will play four as-yet unannounced friendly matches this fall with the U.S., and finish out the season with her club team, Gotham FC. She hinted for more than a year that she was nearing the end of her career and made it official Monday.

“Through all the goals, the trophies, the medals and the championships won, what I am most proud of is that I’ve been able to stay unapologetically me,” said Lloyd, whose international career has spanned some 16 years. “My journey has been hard, but I can honestly say I’ve stayed true to myself, to my teammates, my coaches, the media and the fans throughout my entire career and that is what I am most proud of. Everyone sees the moments of glory, but I have cherished the work behind the scenes and the adversity that I’ve had to overcome to get to those glorious moments.”

The 39-year-old Lloyd scored a pair of goals in the United States’ 4-3 victory over Australia in the bronze medal game in Japan earlier this month. She became the first American to score in four different Olympics, and her 10 total goals in the event set a new record among U.S. players.

She ranks second on the national team’s all-time list with 312 appearances, and fourth with 128 goals.

 

 

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