How is it that we are getting live reports from Kabul?

Live from Kabul

Communications in Afghanistan is under the control of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). It has rapidly expanded after the Karzai administration took over in late 2001, and has embarked on wireless companies, internet, radio stations and television channels.” wiki

Comment: It is an open question as to why the Taliban occupiers of Kabul have not yet begun to shut down the ability of their critics to transmit to the outer world the visual and testimonial evidence of their actions.

Perhaps they are simply not organized enough to have begun the job of erecting a communications wall around the emirate. pl

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30 Responses to How is it that we are getting live reports from Kabul?

  1. rjh says:

    It’s probably too difficult. The Chinese took years to get their internet great firewall working properly, and it still consumes a huge operational staff.

    It’s easy to shut down everything, but a lot of daily life and administration requires both voice and data services to operate. Selectively shutting things down is hard work. It takes a lot of time.

  2. TTG says:

    The simple answer is SATCOM. Thuraya has been around for years and can transmit HD video with man portable devices. They’re not the only providers. I’m sure the remaining Western news crews have these. We should be distributing these to Massoud’s resistance forces and establishing caches throughout the region for future operations.

    • Pat Lang says:

      Some of it is distributed by other than SATCOM. I agree about distributing SATCOM to the gathering resistance.

    • Leith says:

      The resistance may need them.

      From resistance spokesman Fahim Dashti: “Since nearly 24 hours ago, the Taliban forced all telecom networks in Kabul to cut off their services in Panjshir. So we haven’t access to internet & telecom networks in Panjshir for the past 24 hrs.” Unclear to me where he was broadcasting from. I assume the former ANA units in the resistance have comms.

      So the Taliban motive in disconnecting internet and mobile call/text services was to cut off tweeting & social media updates. Thereby restricting news of the resistance to other areas. And also so they could put out their own narrative and maintain their aura of invincibility throughout the rest of the country.

  3. LG says:

    tolo tv’s owner saad mohseni speaks to karan thapar of the indian webzine, the wire on precisely this point. Some very interesting points about media freedom under the new dispensation. Higly recommended

  4. Artemesia says:

    TTG wrote: “We should be distributing these to Massoud’s resistance forces and establishing caches throughout the region for future operations.

    Were “future operations” part of the Trump plan of withdrawal from Afghanistan, or the Biden plan of withdrawal from Afghanistan?

    I’ve been a homemaker most of my life and know little about foreign affairs and military actions. Heck, I’ve not even been a very good homemaker: I constantly put a pot on the stove then walk into another room. The pot boils over. When it does, I turn off the heat, remove the overheated pot, clean up the scorched goods. I don’t set aside the scorched pot and burnt goods for “future operations.”

    • Deap says:

      Even in your burned pots are full of lithium or opium to cook down. You just toss them out?

      • Artemesia says:

        My family was fussy: never prepared lithium or opium. (Although lithium grease is an excellent lubricant for the tracks on the garage door.
        Reading J C Oates’s The Accursed:,/I> Thomas Woodrow Wilson was pretty much addicted to opium pills, among other analgesics of his day.)
        Nor did I “toss out” the pots: I cleaned them. I took responsibility for messes I made and tried to repair/make amends.

        I tried to learn a lesson from the drudgery of scraping a scorched pot: be more careful; pay attention; be respectful of the power you are unleashing. And don’t do the same thing all over again!

    • TTG says:

      Artemisia, killing jihadis, including al Qaeda and ISIS jihadis, has been renounced by Trump or Biden. Drones are okay, but they are imprecise and impersonal. Jihadis need to wake up finding their entrails in a pile on the floor or a hatchet embedded in their forehead. That sends a more personal message and avoids collateral damage. That’s what future operations should include.

      BTW, you shouldn’t grease the runners of your garage door. Lubricate the bearings in the wheels and the wheel axels along with any other hinges on the door. That’s the parts that make noise and wear.

      • TTG says:

        Meant to say killing jihadis has NOT been renounced by Trump or Biden.

      • Deap says:

        Collateral damage for Biden’s macho-macho drone strike already allegedly reported – a civilian family of 9, so yes drone use confirmed: imprecise and impersonal.

        • TTG says:

          Deap, are you auditioning for the part of Taliban Tess? It sure sounds that way. The drone strike could have very well lead to the death of nine Afghan innocents, but don’t you think the jihadis driving a massive car bomb through a residential neighborhood have something to do with the loss of innocent civilians? Should we have let the jihadis drive up to the Airport gate and kill another hundred at a minimum? Here’s what CENTCOM is saying about it.

          CENTCOM says they are “still assessing the results of this strike…there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties….”
          “We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time.”
          “It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further. We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”

          • LeaNder says:

            “still assessing the results of this strike…there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties….”

            Can we read this as indicative of a new transparency policy concerning the services/MIA of the present admin? Warning and then immediately offering evidence: see, after all, we were right?

            Ok, semi-irony alert aside. I did love Artemesia’s house and stove entrance from whatever side of the stage. 😉

    • Pat Lang says:

      If you really think we can or should walk away from the resistance in Afghanistan you are kidding yourself. The game will continue and should. We have to try to prevent consolidation of Taliban power in the country. The trick is to do it as cheaply as possible.

  5. Grimgrin says:

    The idea that they might not have the capacity has been mentioned above. It’s also possible that the Taliban may not want to cut off access.

    The so-called “Lord Miles”, a British student who believed the official estimate that the Taliban was not going to take over and so went to Afghanistan on vacation, discussed in an interview how Taliban fighters were smiling and waving at him as he passed them on his way to the airport; apparently they had recognized him from his online posts. As long at they keep the online access open, they also have a means of gathering that information as I’m sure that any domestic technicians running the network equipment would be grateful for the opportunity to repent of their past errors by assisting the emirate in any capacity they can. Closing down Afghanistan’s domestic networks won’t stop information from getting out, but it will stop the Taliban from being able to conduct any monitoring it as it moves to satellite communications controlled outside of the country.

    It also occurs to me that information gathering is not just limited to information on their enemies. While the Taliban probably have less of an issue with this than the West, a recurring theme in stories from Afghanistan is someone taking advantage of the US military to settle a personal score. If there are elements in the Taliban taking such advantage, having it talked about online would be helpful for elements in the Taliban who are either more moderate, or more patient and strategic in how they are going to take their revenge. They may not want to shut down this channel of monitoring the situation in the country.

    There’s also the issue that the Taliban may not see significant downsides in people knowing about the reprisals or their actions. If the US was not moved to military intervention to keep them from taking Kabul, why should the Taliban worry about the fallout of a few videos of collaborators being brutalized?

    The question of if access to western media is a thing to be feared by the Taliban the way it was in the past for the Soviets for example, is a larger one, and I’m not sure I can do it justice. I will just observe that the West as portrayed in the media today has many of it’s own citizens set against it, both intentionally as in the case of the BLM & extinction rebellion activists and unintentionally in more right leaning spaces reacting against modern culture.

    • Pat Lang says:

      “Taliban fighters were smiling and waving at him as he passed them on his way to the airport;” Nah, They thought he was cute. “There’s a boy across the river with a bottom like a peach but alas I cannot swim.” Pashtun folk song.

  6. Deap says:

    Infographic setting out the house gifts Biden left behind for the Taliban, or whomever else gets to claim the victor’s spoils – and know how to use them and keep them running.

    Never under-estimate third world ingenuity. I watched them in a remote Pakistan “gun town” make any firearm you ever wanted just sitting on the dirt floor, with lengths of pipe, a welding torch, and under a single hanging overhead lightbulb.

  7. fredw says:

    This account contains some things I have not seen before. It is slightly off target for this discussion, but it relates to understanding Taliban intentions. It portrays the Taliban, far from concluding implementation of a fiendishly clever plot, as being also surprised by developments and unprepared to deal with them.

    “In the void, law and order began to break down, with reports of armed gangs moving through the streets.

    In a hastily arranged in-person meeting, senior U.S. military leaders in Doha — including McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command — spoke with Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban’s political wing.

    “We have a problem,” Baradar said, according to the U.S. official. “We have two options to deal with it: You [the United States military] take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it.

    Throughout the day, Biden had remained resolute in his decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. The collapse of the Afghan government hadn’t changed his mind.

    McKenzie, aware of those orders, told Baradar that the U.S. mission was only to evacuate American citizens, Afghan allies and others at risk. The United States, he told Baradar, needed the airport to do that.

    On the spot, an understanding was reached, according to two other U.S. officials: The United States could have the airport until Aug. 31. But the Taliban would control the city.

    Fighters were now on the move throughout Kabul, with the group’s spokesman issuing a revision of his earlier guidance: The Taliban hadn’t intended to take Kabul that day. But Ghani’s exit gave the group no choice.

    “The government has left all of their ministries; you have to enter the city to prevent further disorder and protect public property and services from chaos,” read a message that pinged on Muhammad Nasir Haqqani’s phone.”

    None of this implies that the Taliban are in any possible sense of the words “good guys”. My sympathies for jihadis are at about the same level as Colonel Lang’s. The account does illustrate that they have goals and concerns beyond the blood lust that constitutes all of most American understanding. It would be surprising if they didn’t. The American goal is to use those concerns to obtain as good an outcome as we can. Not very good in this case, but a bad outcome was baked in from the start.

    Would they actually have let us do the security if we were foolish enough to try? I would have if I were them. Letting us try to deal with the chaos would have freed them from trying to enforce discipline on not very disciplined bunches of rural militias. It would have freed them from any responsibility for containing ISIS-K, who are very much not their friends. It would have provided thousands of opportunities for making us look inept and two-faced. We weren’t prepared to do it, and they could have presented themselves as heroes after we failed. So yes. I think they may have been serious. All this of course assumes that the story is accurate. But it does seem consistent with the known facts.

    • Deap says:

      Maybe The Taliban can use the Capitol Police Force training manuals. Know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em.

    • English Outsider says:

      That is consistent with a statement made by Mrs Merkel. The sudden collapse of the Ghani administration left all flat-footed, most of all the Taliban. After that all was directed simply to saving the situation as far as was possible.

      The American military apparatus, or in this case that apparatus in conjunction with its various Western allies, is a coherent structure. However the political decisions concerning its actions are arrived at, and whether they are good or bad, those decisions are translated into military action in accordance with what has been decided by the politicians. Biden or Trump, and whatever happens behind the political scenes, that’s how it works. Orders are followed through to what happens on the ground. Most of the time, anyway, and reliably so here.

      But from my reading of Colonel Lang’s site there’s no such coherence with the Taliban. They are not fully in control, sometimes not in control at all, of their own units. They shade off into sympathy with the very forces they ostensibly oppose, IS-K. And yet this amorphous and unreliable group is the very group the US and its allies had to negotiate a withdrawal with.

      It looks as if the Taliban leadership had been thoroughly prepped. All those conferences and meetings, with the Russians and Chinese, the Iranians and Pakistanis, and certainly if indirectly with the Americans, were for that purpose. The Americans weren’t going to just walk out and say goodbye. They’d been part of arranging a transfer of power that would avoid just the scenes we’ve been watching.

      That’s why they left, or intended to leave, their Embassy and numbers of American civilians in place. That’s why the Taliban didn’t want to take Kabul at once. With the neighbouring countries and the Russians pushing hard behind the scenes, with the still formidable threat of Western military action if needed, and with the Ghani administration still holding at least some cards, a soft landing was intended – a period in which civilians and Afghan western sympathisers could have been got out if that looked to be needed and left in if it were not.

      All was changed dramatically by the remarkably sudden collapse of the ANA and by Ghani’s discreditable flight. Since then it’s been plan B all the way. Get out fast, as much as possible, and with as few casualties as possible. From then on those heart rending scenes at the airport were unavoidable. And for all that we hear many politicians in Europe lamenting those scenes, we hear none suggesting how, given that sudden collapse and that unexpected flight, it could have been done better.

      “A bad outcome was baked in from the start”, you say. It was certainly baked in from the collapse of the Ghani administration and we shall be exceedingly lucky if worse, much worse, can be avoided. This is a knife-edge situation and all depends on the Taliban holding together enough to be able to run the country; and on it not reverting to the blood lust and savagery that characterised its takeover twenty years ago.

      That I read into Mrs Merkel’s statement and I believe it’s correct to do so. Not my favourite politician and that’s an understatement, but in this case she was telling it as it is.

  8. Deap says:

    Underscoring what we learn here all the time, “they” are very different from thee and me. Taliban use a left-behind US helicopter to dangle and hang a traitor in full public view.

    Biden’s Saigon photo worth 1000 words:

  9. Joe100 says:

    This looks really bad if accurate – and most of this information (beyond the Politico article) is from US service men on social, media. It appears we had warning almost down to the precise time and a description of the suicide bomber..

  10. Deap says:

    One more reminder, what the heck were we even doing in this part of the world in the first place for as long as we were.

    Obama expanded our presence; Trump wisely drew it down; Biden bungled the departure which created final days of infamy for the US, now exploited by those from this ancient chunk of real estate to fully enjoy.

    I hope John Kerry asked Joe Biden, how do you think it feels to be the last man killed in a bungled departure from war? Or the last 13 men and women …….

    • Pat Lang says:


      What has this to do with Kerry?

      • Deap says:

        John Kerry’s famous question, when he turned in his medals and testified before Congress about the Vietnam War.

        Long before he was born-again and “reporting for duty” as a proud military man for his own Presidential campaign decades later, with a smart salute.

        (At least this foggy brain here, thinks this was John Kerry’s infamous question.)

      • JerseyJeffersonian says:

        Colonel, if I might, this was a reference to a couple of sentences from Kerry’s testimony in Congress in 1971, speaking as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War:

        “We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

        Political invective to be sure, but this was the reference.

  11. mctooty says:

    the Afghan army walked away deliberately.Instead of being whittled down in fighting the taliban the troops are fully intact and trained.But they need to be paid.
    Either empire will pickup the tab and supply the arms in exchange for the good stuff or some other side made them a better offer.In any event whoever set off the suicide bombers works for that side.
    A serious incident in that sides country will provide the answer to there identity

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