Afghanistan: How the Taliban advance marks a new era of chaos and the end of hard-fought freedoms

A Taliban fighter poses for a photo as he patrols inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: AP

“You may have the watches, but we have the time.” The infamous Taliban prediction has never seemed so prescient.

They always believed that if they were patient for long enough the West would give up and leave Afghanistan. And they were right.

First and foremost I feel sorry for the Afghan people who tasted freedoms we take for granted- and now watch them being eradicated as the Taliban advance.

A new dark age is descending.

Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul. Credit: AP

Second, I feel sorry for the families of the British service personnel who gave their lives in the belief they were helping make a country better.

The gains they died for are being undone.

British soldiers risked life and limb in Helmand.

I well remember being among the first UK journalists to visit the provincial capitol Lashkar Gah soon after the Brits arrived in 2006.

C Company posed for this photograph ahead of their tour in Afghanistan in 2006.

It was a dangerous place. We were welcomed with the words “what’s your blood group?”

At one point the threat from IEDs and booby-traps was so great that our soldiers were going on patrol with tourniquets already loosely wrapped around their thighs.

If the worst happened – and it often did – the strap just had to be tightened to staunch the gush of blood associated with a blown off leg.

John Irvine reported on the handover of Lashkar Gah in 2011

In 2011, we were present for the ceremony that marked the handover of Lashkar Gah by a British general to local Afghan leaders.

The Brits had pacified the place sufficiently to allow this to happen. It was a mission success story.

On Friday, Lashkar Gah fell to the Taliban.

The city's capture marks yet another prize in their ruthless offensive.

I’m not sure exactly when the Americans decided a just cause had become a lost cause.

Listening to State Department officials explain the logistics of abandonment they continue to parrot the line that they support “the Afghan people”.

Stranded people gather and wait to open the border which was closed by authorities, in Chaman, Pakistan. Credit: AP

It seems that support does not extend to the Afghan government. And that explains a lot.

Corruption and cronyism at every level of local rule have destroyed what might have been. Kleptomania is indeed democracy’s dry rot.

Radical Islam is having a field day. Not long after the Islamic State were defeated in Iraq and Syria, their blood brothers in the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.

Internally displaced Afghan women from northern provinces receive medical care in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: AP

Girls and women will have their dreams snuffed out by the cruelties of Sharia.

Forget the classroom, it’s back to the burqa and the kitchen.

Western idealism has foundered in Afghanistan.

The clocks are going back there and not just by an hour.

Read more stories from our series Afghanistan: Photo From The Frontline