Images from the 2021 Taliban Offensive in Afghanistan, depicting a USAF plane on a runway surrounded by people, left, and three armed Taliban members, right.

2021 Taliban Offensive in Afghanistan

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Updated Jan 26, 2022 at 12:59PM EST by Zach.

Added Aug 16, 2021 at 09:08AM EDT by Philipp.

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2021 Taliban Offensive in Afghanistan refers to the 2021 offensive launched by the Islamist movement Taliban and allied militant groups against the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. By mid-August 2021, the Taliban achieved control over most parts of the country, seizing its capital Kabul on August 15th. The events in Afghanistan became a viral subject of discussions on social media, partly due to viral footage of people attempting to flee and due to the U.S. pulling its military presence from the country being widely regarded as a primary reason for the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.


Withdrawal of the United States Troops and Start of the Offensive

On May 1st, 2021, the Taliban, an Islamist movement and military organization in Afghanistan, together with allied militant groups launched an offensive against the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its Afghan National Army.[1] The offensive began on the same day as the initial deadline for the full withdrawal of the United States armed forces from the country,[2] which was earlier moved by U.S. President Joe Biden to September 11th, 2021. The continued withdrawal of the U.S. forces, which started with the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement achieved in February 2020, was accompanied by the withdrawal of Afghanistan-stationed forces by other NATO countries.

In May 2021, the Taliban captured 15 districts from the Afghan government, bringing that number to 69 of 421 districts in June. In July, the Taliban then captured an additional 64 districts and entered the second and third largest cities of Afghanistan, Kandahar and Herat.

Fall of Provincial Capitals and Kabul

Starting on August 6th, Taliban forces captured provincial capitals on a daily basis, assuming control over both Kandahar and Herat on August 12th. By August 14th, the Taliban established control over 25 of 34 provincial capitals.

On August 15th, the Taliban halted their advance at the gates of Kabul with the purpose of entering negotiations with the government; however, some forces entered the city, capturing several areas of the city including a prison containing Daesh and Al-Qaeda militants, who were released.[3]

On that day, the Afghan interior ministry said that President Ashraf Ghani had decided to relinquish power, with the Taliban forming an interim government. Later on the same day, media outlets reported that President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, reportedly to Tajikistan.

On August 15th, it was reported that the Taliban would soon declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. As of August 16th, no countries recognized the state.

Kabul International Airport Evacuation

On August 12th, the United States and the United Kingdom announced the deployment of 3,000 and 600 troops, respectively, to the Kabul International Airport in order to secure the evacuation of their nationals.[4] On August 15th, following the fall of Kabul, the U.S. increased the military presence at the airport to nearly 6,000 troops.

On August 13th, 2021, the U.S. military operation Allies Refuge began. The operation had the objective of a full evacuation of U.S. nationals, embassy staff and Afghan interpreters from the country.

Following the fall of Kabul, the Kabul International Airport was flooded by Afghan locals attempting to flee the country. According to reports, some civilians were killed in stampedes and the U.S. forces fired warning shots into the air to restore order. On August 15th, 2021, Iranian journalist Morteza Kazemian tweeted[5][6][7] a series of videos that showed a crowd of people running to the airport, a large number of people running alongside a departing U.S. Air Force aircraft, with some trying to climb onto it, and a person falling down from a flying aircraft to their apparent death (first and second videos shown below).

Online Reactions

Following the fall of Kabul, the 2021 events in Afghanistan became a popular topic of discussion on social media. The connection between the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from the country and the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was one of the major talking points.

Laura Jedeed @LauraJedeed Boy howdy am I having a lot of feelings about Afghanistan today I deployed there twice--once in 2008 and once in 2009-10 It was already obvious that the Taliban would sweep through the very instant we left And here we are today 7:36 PM · Aug 14, 2021 · Twitter Web App USA TODAY Subscribe Sign In After two decades and billions spent, Afghan government collapses as Taliban takes Kabul An, victory II A gay bar owner in Kabul trying to stop the US military from leaving

Multiple memes commenting on the ongoing events and news reports from the country were posted by users on social media, including Twitter, Reddit and iFunny. A fabricated post that claimed that a McDonald's in Kabul would remain open until the last American citizen leaves gained viral spread[8][9] (shown below, left), with multiple memes referencing the post (example shown below, center).

Dylan Welch ... @dylanwelch Internal DOD documents that have been seen by ABC suggest that Kabul Mcdonalds (the only Mcdonalds in Afghanistan), mostly serving American diplomats at Kabul airport, is temporarily staffed by American marines and will remain open until the last American leaves. #Kabul #Afghanistan Mcdonald's M 3 g juiguc w Mob:0779 300 400 - 0783 60 2 Mcdonale US soldiers fighting so the Afghani people can have McDonalds and die of heart disease in their 40's The Afghan military preparing to be fucking useless

Memes and posts highlighting the similarities between the fall of Kabul and the fall of Saigon in 1975, and between the War in Afghanistan and the Vietnam War in general, also received spread (examples shown below).

Stefan Simanowitz @StefSimanowitz · Aug 15 ... PHOTO 1: US diplomat evacuate US from embassy via helicopter as the #Taliban enter #Kabul from all sides. #Afghanistan (2021) PHOTO 2: US diplomat evacuate US from embassy via helicopter as the PAVN & Viet Cong capture of Saigon, Vietnam (1975) 566 27 9.8K 20.8K 1975 SIGH... Che New Uork Times COMMUNISTS TAKE OVER SAIGON AFGHANISTAN'S SECOND LARGEST CITY FALLS TO TALIBAN Taliban insurgents take Kandahar, US plans to evacuate ericans from embassy in Kabul 2021 JHCRAIN

Lord Miles

Miles Routledge, better known as Lord Miles, is a 21-year-old British student who claimed to be in Afghanistan during the events of the 2021 Taliban offensive and was actively reporting his situation on 4chan and Twitch. Posts made by Routledge went viral on social media in mid-August 2021.

Just chilling in Afghanistan Miles Fri 13 Aug 2021 [1406 / 155 / 754] 05:31:12 No.2075339 View Reply Original Report Quoted By: >>2075340 >>2075376 >>2075405 >>2075411 >>2075474 >>2075541 >>2075579 >>2075584 >>2075605 >>2075633 >>2075637 >>2075651 >>2075692 >>2075770 >>2075798 >>2075802 >>2075933 >>2076252 >>2076299 >>2076628 >>2076659 >>2076886 >>2076907 >>2077541 >>2077614 >>2077639 >>2077710 >>2077813 >>2078011 >>2078556 >>2079112 >>2079194 >>2079288 >>2079595 >>2079672 >>2079710 >>2079722 >>2079810 >>2079901 >>2080056 >>2080064 >>2080103 >>2080142 >>2080145 >>2080285 >>2080363 >>2080372 >>2080384 >>2080452 >>2080536 >>2080558 >>2080617 >>2080677 >>2080698 >>2080735 >>2080766 >>2080846 >>2080897 >>2080931 2MİB, 2320x3088, 82FA6277-66F4- >>2080938 >>2080960 >>2080983 >>2080993 >>2081003 4599-B6D2-F4F017E5E58B.jpg >>2081208 >>2081209 >>2081217 >>2081313 >>2081317 View Same Google igdb SauceNAO Trace >>2081517 >>2081591 >>2081615 >>2081791 >>2081864 >>2082003 >>2082064 >>2082207 >>2082228 >>2082503 >>2082693 >>2082993 >>2083006 >>2083035 >>2083062 >>2083110 >>2083209 >>2083298 >>2083374 >>2083619 >>2083974 >>2084092 >>2084479 >>2084530 >>2084578 >>2084821 >>2084915 >>2085042 >>2085049 >>2085157 >>2085332 >>2085410 >>2085547 >>2085559 Decided to pop down to Afghanistan for a few days, never been before. Just goofing off and soaking in the sun. Seems more peaceful than London to me. AMA eke Zo li

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