“reckless taxing and spending spree.”

Conservative policy experts said that although some expansion of government aid was appropriate during the pandemic, those programs should be wound down, not expanded, as the economy healed.

“Policymakers did a remarkable job last March enacting CARES and other legislation, lending to businesses, providing loan forbearance, expanding the safety net,” Scott Winship, a senior fellow and the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative group, wrote in reaction to the data, referring to an early pandemic aid bill, which included around $2 trillion in spending. “But we should have pivoted to other priorities thereafter.”

Jason DeParle and Margot Sanger-Katz contributed reporting.

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In US Drone Strike, Evidence Suggests No ISIS Bomb

[explosion] In one of the final acts of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, the United States fired a missile from a drone at a car in Kabul. It was parked in the courtyard of a home, and the explosion killed 10 people, including 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi and seven children, according to his family. The Pentagon claimed that Ahmadi was a facilitator for the Islamic State, and that his car was packed with explosives, posing an imminent threat to U.S. troops guarding the evacuation at the Kabul airport. “The procedures were correctly followed, and it was a righteous strike.” What the military apparently didn’t know was that Ahmadi was a longtime aid worker, who colleagues and family members said spent the hours before he died running office errands, and ended his day by pulling up to his house. Soon after, his Toyota was hit with a 20-pound Hellfire missile. What was interpreted as the suspicious moves of a terrorist may have just been an average day in his life. And it’s possible that what the military saw Ahmadi loading into his car were water canisters he was bringing home to his family — not explosives. Using never-before seen security camera footage of Ahmadi, interviews with his family, co-workers and witnesses, we will piece together for the first time his movements in the hours before he was killed. Zemari Ahmadi was an electrical engineer by training. For 14 years, he had worked for the Kabul office of Nutrition and Education International. “NEI established a total of 11 soybean processing plants in Afghanistan.” It’s a California based NGO that fights malnutrition. On most days, he drove one of the company’s white Toyota corollas, taking his colleagues to and from work and distributing the NGO’s food to Afghans displaced by the war. Only three days before Ahmadi was killed, 13 U.S. troops and more than 170 Afghan civilians died in an Islamic State suicide attack at the airport. The military had given lower-level commanders the authority to order airstrikes earlier in the evacuation, and they were bracing for what they feared was another imminent attack. To reconstruct Ahmadi’s movements on Aug. 29, in the hours before he was killed, The Times pieced together the security camera footage from his office, with interviews with more than a dozen of Ahmadi’s colleagues and family members. Ahmadi appears to have left his home around 9 a.m. He then picked up a colleague and his boss’s laptop near his house. It’s around this time that the U.S. military claimed it observed a white sedan leaving an alleged Islamic State safehouse, around five kilometers northwest of the airport. That’s why the U.S. military said they tracked Ahmadi’s Corolla that day. They also said they intercepted communications from the safehouse, instructing the car to make several stops. But every colleague who rode with Ahmadi that day said what the military interpreted as a series of suspicious moves was just a typical day in his life. After Ahmadi picked up another colleague, the three stopped to get breakfast, and at 9:35 a.m., they arrived at the N.G.O.’s office. Later that morning, Ahmadi drove some of his co-workers to a Taliban-occupied police station to get permission for future food distribution at a new displacement camp. At around 2 p.m., Ahmadi and his colleagues returned to the office. The security camera footage we obtained from the office is crucial to understanding what happens next. The camera’s timestamp is off, but we went to the office and verified the time. We also matched an exact scene from the footage with a timestamp satellite image to confirm it was accurate. A 2:35 p.m., Ahmadi pulls out a hose, and then he and a co-worker fill empty containers with water. Earlier that morning, we saw Ahmadi bring these same empty plastic containers to the office. There was a water shortage in his neighborhood, his family said, so he regularly brought water home from the office. At around 3:38 p.m., a colleague moves Ahmadi’s car further into the driveway. A senior U.S. official told us that at roughly the same time, the military saw Ahmadi’s car pull into an unknown compound 8 to 12 kilometers southwest of the airport. That overlaps with the location of the NGO’s office, which we believe is what the military called an unknown compound. With the workday ending, an employee switched off the office generator and the feed from the camera ends. We don’t have footage of the moments that followed. But it’s at this time, the military said that its drone feed showed four men gingerly loading wrapped packages into the car. Officials said they couldn’t tell what was inside them. This footage from earlier in the day shows what the men said they were carrying — their laptops one in a plastic shopping bag. And the only things in the trunk, Ahmadi’s co-workers said, were the water containers. Ahmadi dropped each one of them off, then drove to his home in a dense neighborhood near the airport. He backed into the home’s small courtyard. Children surrounded the car, according to his brother. A U.S. official said the military feared the car would leave again, and go into an even more crowded street or to the airport itself. The drone operators, who hadn’t been watching Ahmadi’s home at all that day, quickly scanned the courtyard and said they saw only one adult male talking to the driver and no children. They decided this was the moment to strike. A U.S. official told us that the strike on Ahmadi’s car was conducted by an MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired a single Hellfire missile with a 20-pound warhead. We found remnants of the missile, which experts said matched a Hellfire at the scene of the attack. In the days after the attack, the Pentagon repeatedly claimed that the missile strike set off other explosions, and that these likely killed the civilians in the courtyard. “Significant secondary explosions from the targeted vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.” “Because there were secondary explosions, there’s a reasonable conclusion to be made that there was explosives in that vehicle.” But a senior military official later told us that it was only possible to probable that explosives in the car caused another blast. We gathered photos and videos of the scene taken by journalists and visited the courtyard multiple times. We shared the evidence with three weapons experts who said the damage was consistent with the impact of a Hellfire missile. They pointed to the small crater beneath Ahmadi’s car and the damage from the metal fragments of the warhead. This plastic melted as a result of a car fire triggered by the missile strike. All three experts also pointed out what was missing: any evidence of the large secondary explosions described by the Pentagon. No collapsed or blown-out walls, including next to the trunk with the alleged explosives. No sign that a second car parked in the courtyard was overturned by a large blast. No destroyed vegetation. All of this matches what eyewitnesses told us, that a single missile exploded and triggered a large fire. There is one final detail visible in the wreckage: containers identical to the ones that Ahmadi and his colleague filled with water and loaded into his trunk before heading home. Even though the military said the drone team watched the car for eight hours that day, a senior official also said they weren’t aware of any water containers. The Pentagon has not provided The Times with evidence of explosives in Ahmadi’s vehicle or shared what they say is the intelligence that linked him to the Islamic State. But the morning after the U.S. killed Ahmadi, the Islamic State did launch rockets at the airport from a residential area Ahmadi had driven through the previous day. And the vehicle they used … … was a white Toyota. The U.S. military has so far acknowledged only three civilian deaths from its strike, and says there is an investigation underway. They have also admitted to knowing nothing about Ahmadi before killing him, leading them to interpret the work of an engineer at a U.S. NGO as that of an Islamic State terrorist. Four days before Ahmadi was killed, his employer had applied for his family to receive refugee resettlement in the United States. At the time of the strike, they were still awaiting approval. Looking to the U.S. for protection, they instead became some of the last victims in America’s longest war. “Hi, I’m Evan, one of the producers on this story. Our latest visual investigation began with word on social media of an explosion near Kabul airport. It turned out that this was a U.S. drone strike, one of the final acts in the 20-year war in Afghanistan. Our goal was to fill in the gaps in the Pentagon’s version of events. We analyzed exclusive security camera footage, and combined it with eyewitness accounts and expert analysis of the strike aftermath. You can see more of our investigations by signing up for our newsletter.”

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U.S. War in Afghanistan Ends as Final Evacuation Flights Depart

The last United States forces left Afghanistan late Monday, ending a 20-year occupation that began shortly after Al Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11, cost over $2 trillion, took more than 170,000 lives and ultimately failed to defeat the Taliban, the Islamist militants who allowed Al Qaeda to operate there.

Five American C-17 cargo jets flew out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul just before midnight, the officials said, completing a hasty evacuation that left behind tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee the country, including former members of the security forces and many who held valid visas to enter the United States.

“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Monday evening. “It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over.”

But the war prosecuted by four presidents over two decades, which gave Afghans a shot at democracy and freed many women to pursue education and careers, failed in nearly every other goal. Ultimately, the Americans handed the country back to the same militants they drove from power in 2001.

scenes of mass desperation and carnage this past week became indelible images of the Americans’ final days, only a few hundred Afghans still waited at the gates on Monday night as the last flights departed.

Bin Laden was killed by an American SEAL team in Pakistan in 2011.

But the United States, confident it had routed the Taliban, refused their entreaties for a negotiated surrender and plowed ahead with an enormous effort to not only drive them out but to construct a Western-style democracy in Afghanistan. The lengthy occupation allowed the Taliban to regroup, casting itself as the national resistance to the American invaders and, three American presidents later, driving them out in a war of attrition, much as Afghans had done to the Soviets in the 1980s.

The United States departure was marred by a ghastly burst of civilian casualties that seemed emblematic of the American missteps in the war.

A drone strike that the U.S. military said was aimed at thwarting an attack on the airport killed 10 civilians, survivors said, including seven children, an aid worker for an American charity organization, and a contractor with the U.S. military.

according to Brown University’s Cost of War project — approached the number of dead fighters.

The Taliban gave few signs on Monday that they were ready to govern a country of nearly 40 million facing a major humanitarian crisis, with about half the population malnourished, according to the United Nations.

a suicide attack that killed more than 170 people, including 13 American service members, at the airport on Thursday.

The spokesman, Capt. Bill Urban, said that the military was investigating the claims of civilian casualties, and suggested that any civilian deaths may have resulted from the detonation of the explosives in the vehicle. The New York Times could not independently verify whether the American missile strike killed the 10 civilians.

their origin story and their record as rulers.

In the final hours of the evacuation, American surveillance and attack aircraft locked down the skies over Kabul, circling high overhead until the last transport plane was aloft.

“Job well done,” said Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne, who was on the last plane out. “Proud of you all.”

A military official said that every American who wanted to leave and could get to the airport was taken out. But a number of Americans, thought to be fewer than 300, remain, either by choice or because they were unable to reach the airport.

But the evacuation did not reach all those Afghans who had assisted the United States over the years, and who now face possible Taliban retribution. An unknown number of those who made it through the tortuous process for special visas granted to American collaborators never even made it to the airport, much less onto an evacuation flight.

“Because I worked with the Americans, I won’t be able to put food on my table, and I won’t be able to live in Afghanistan,” said one special visa holder, Hamayoon, in an interview on Monday from Kabul. “I risked my life for many years, working for the Americans, and now my life is at even greater risk.”

a deadly Taliban attack in 2016, were also left behind. Some 600 hundred students and relatives had boarded buses to the airport but in the end were not cleared to enter the airport gates.

Mr. Blinken said the United States had “worked intensely” to evacuate Afghans who worked with the Americans and were at risk of reprisal.

“We’ve gotten many out but many are still there,” he said. “We will keep working to help them. Our commitment to them has no deadline.”

He also said that the Taliban had pledged to let anyone with proper documents “freely depart Afghanistan.”

Conditions are bound to get much worse soon, both in Kabul and across the country, U.N. officials warned. Food stocks will likely run out at the end of September, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the United Nation’s humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan.

The Taliban have promised amnesty to those who opposed them, but it is a promise they may not have the power to keep.

“The Taliban are going out of their way to emphasize the amnesty message,” the veteran diplomat said. “But they may not have full command and control.”

In Kabul, “we may be on the brink of an urban humanitarian catastrophe,” the diplomat said. “Prices are up. There are no salaries. At some point millions of people will reach desperation.”

Reporting was contributed by Jim Huylebroek, Matthieu Aikins, Najim Rahim, Helene Cooper, Fahim Abed, Lara Jakes and Farnaz Fassihi.

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Afghanistan Live Updates: Biden Says U.S. Forces Will Stay in Kabul to Get All Americans Out

Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, a group that provides intelligence information to agencies of the global organization. It was shared internally at the United Nations and seen by The New York Times.

Members of the Afghan military and the police, as well as those who worked for investigative units of the toppled government, were particularly at risk, the document said.

It contained a reproduced letter dated Aug. 16 from the Taliban to an unnamed counterterrorism official in Afghanistan who had worked with U.S. and British officials and then gone into hiding before the insurgents came to the official’s apartment.

The letter instructed the official to report to the Military and Intelligence Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Kabul. If not, it warned, the official’s family members “will be treated based on Shariah law.”

The Taliban have repeatedly issued assurances that they will not use their victory to wreak revenge on those who opposed them. The report adds to the growing doubts about that pledge, and suggests that the Taliban may indeed engage in reprisal killings, as they did when they took over in Afghanistan more than 20 years ago.

On Wednesday, a public display of dissent in the northeastern city of Jalalabad was met by force. Taliban soldiers fired into the crowd and beat protesters and journalists.

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Gunfire in the Streets: Protests Met by Force in Afghanistan

The Taliban faced off against protestors in the northeastern city of Jalalabad. Taliban soldiers fired shots into the crowd and beat protesters and journalists.

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The Taliban faced off against protestors in the northeastern city of Jalalabad. Taliban soldiers fired shots into the crowd and beat protesters and journalists.CreditCredit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

The Taliban faced the first street protests on Wednesday against their takeover of Afghanistan, with demonstrations in at least two cities, even as they moved to form a new government.

A public display of dissent in the northeastern city of Jalalabad was met by force. Taliban soldiers fired into the crowd and beat protesters and journalists.

The Taliban had taken control of the city, a commercial hub east of Kabul near the main border crossing with Pakistan, four days earlier without much of a fight after a deal was negotiated with local leaders. This week, the Taliban have been out in large numbers, patrolling the city in pickup trucks seized from the now defunct police force.

Despite the risks, hundreds of protesters marched through the main shopping street, whistling, shouting and bearing large flags of the Afghan Republic. Taliban fighters fired in the air to break up the crowd, but the protesters did not disperse, video aired by local news media outlets showed.

When that failed, the fighters resorted to violence. At least two people were killed and a dozen injured, according to Al Jazeera.

For the new Taliban government, the jarring images of violence at the protest — as well as images of chaos and people being beaten while trying to approach Kabul’s airport in an attempt to flee the country — have undermined their efforts to present themselves as responsible stewards of the government.

In Khost, in the southeastern part of the country, there were also demonstrations, with dramatic photos and video showing hundreds of people taking to the streets.

The outpouring of public anger came as the Taliban prepared to offer details on the shape of their government, naming ministers and filling key positions.

The younger brother of a top Taliban leader met in Kabul on Wednesday with former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the Afghan delegation to the recent peace talks in Qatar. He was accompanied by the speaker of Afghanistan’s upper house of Parliament.

The meeting was further evidence of the group’s determination to gain international acceptance.

It followed a news conference on Tuesday in which the Taliban offered blanket amnesty, vowing no reprisals against former enemies.

“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime chief spokesman, said. “From today onward, war is over.”

While many were skeptical of those assurances, in Kabul the rhythms of daily life started to return — but they were in many ways circumscribed.

There were noticeably fewer women on the streets. Some of those who ventured out did not cover up in the traditional burqa, the full-length shroud that covers the face that was required the last time the Taliban ruled. At homes and businesses, a knock on the door could stir fear.

It remains to be seen whether the pragmatic needs of a nation of 38 million will continue to temper the ideological fanaticism that defined the group’s rule from 1996 to 2001. But the country the Taliban now control is vastly changed from two decades ago.

The progress of women — women in critical roles in civil society and millions of girls in school — is the most visible example. But years of Western investment in the country also helped rebuild a nation that was in a state of ruin when the Taliban first emerged.

The protests offered early signs that many Afghans will not simply accept Taliban rule.

The Afghan government’s failure to meet people’s basic needs helped fuel support for the Taliban. That allowed them to sweep across the country swiftly — often not by military force, but by negotiation with frustrated local leaders.

On Wednesday, at a riverside market in Kabul, Jawed was selling apples. Born the year the Taliban were ousted from power, he was not old enough to remember their brutal reign.

His concern this week was getting supplies of fruit from Pakistan. That was now easier, he said.

“The roads are clear now — they are quiet,” said Jawed, who goes by one name. For now, the Taliban meant more order in the traffic, and wholesale prices had dropped. But business was not better.

“The people are afraid right now — they’re not buying,” he said. “But at least it is better than yesterday. Things will slowly improve. The mullahs have arrived.”

The arrival of the Taliban mullahs — a reference to group’s religious leaders — also set off widespread fear.

Tens of thousands are still trying to escape. People lined up early at the banks, worried that there wouldn’t be money to feed their families. And the deployment of soldiers at checkpoints across Kabul made it clear that Taliban have a monopoly on the use of force and would decide how and when to use it.

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Taliban Fire Gunshots Outside Kabul Airport

Gunshots rang out as thousands of Afghans crowded outside Kabul’s international airport attempting to flee the country. The Taliban controlled the chaotic streets surrounding the airport, while the U.S. military established control inside.

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Gunshots rang out as thousands of Afghans crowded outside Kabul’s international airport attempting to flee the country. The Taliban controlled the chaotic streets surrounding the airport, while the U.S. military established control inside.CreditCredit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Chaos erupted outside Kabul’s international airport on Wednesday as thousands of people tried to make their way there to flee Afghanistan. The sound of heavy gunfire echoed through the streets leading to the facility.

There were conflicting reports about what exactly was happening on the streets outside the airport, which the Taliban now control.

A NATO security official at the airport told Reuters that 17 people had been injured in a stampede at one gate to the airport.

People were still camping out near the airport’s gates. Whole families sat under rows of pine trees lining the main airport road, while others, carrying sparse belongings, were still trying to gain entrance, to little avail. The Taliban still had their men stationed at the entrances. There were volleys of rifle fire, pushing, pulling and beating with wooden sticks, Kalashnikovs and pieces of cut hoses.

At one gate, Taliban members had positioned themselves on concrete road dividers overlooking the crowd. Their commander, Kalashnikov slung around the shoulder and megaphone in hand, told the people: “This gate is closed. Only foreigners and people with documents allowed.”

Although the U.S. military has established control inside the airport and military flights have resumed, the situation outside on Wednesday was volatile.

The Taliban have sought to present a kinder and gentler image of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to the world, but scenes near the airport offered a bloody counterpoint. Taliban members at times beat people with rifle butts and clubs to force back the crowd trying to get in.

Images taken on Tuesday by Marcus Yam, a photographer for the Los Angeles Times, were graphic: a man cradling a child with a bloodied forehead. A woman who appeared to be unconscious lying in the road a few feet away, blood streaming down her cheek.

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Prominent Afghans in the Panjshir Valley, which the Taliban do not control, do not recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s rightful leaders and have begun challenging their authority.CreditCredit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

A group of Afghan leaders are trying to rally a force to resist the Taliban from the same strategic valley that two decades ago held out against the militants — and provided American spies and special forces operators a launchpad for the invasion that drove the Taliban from power in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Yet the parallels with that earlier fight in a pocket north of Kabul known as the Panjshir Valley, however intriguing, are limited, and even Afghans sympathetic to the effort expressed deep doubts about its prospects.

Unlike 20 years ago, the resistance leaders do not control the territory they would need to open a supply line through Afghanistan’s northern borders, nor do they appear to have any significant international support.

How many men and how well supplied they are material is also an open question. Former Afghan officials put the number of fighters holed up in Panjshir between 2,000 and 2,500, and they are said to have little beyond assault weapons.

And the leaders, while well-established Afghan political and military figures, lack the charisma and military prowess of the man who led the old Northern Alliance that resisted the Taliban in the 1990s, Ahmad Shah Massoud. He was killed by assassins from Al Qaeda two days before the Sept. 11 attacks, and is now a mythic figure among the ethnic Tajiks who populate northern Afghanistan, and who made up the bulk of those who first fought Taliban rule.

For now, though, the leaders of the movement insist that their goal is to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban on behalf of the now-defunct Afghan government, said Amrullah Saleh, one of the men organizing the resistance.

Mr. Saleh was Afghanistan’s first vice president until Sunday, when President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul ahead of the Taliban’s advance into the city, and he is now claiming to be the “caretaker president” under Afghanistan’s U.S.-brokered 2004 Constitution.

“We have lost territory but not legitimacy,” he said in an interview conducted over text message. “I, as caretaker president, upholder of the Constitution, don’t see the Taliban emirate either as legitimate or national.”

Mr. Saleh has been joined in Panjshir by Ahmad Massoud, the son of the assassinated resistance leader, and Gen. Yasin Zia, a former Afghan army chief of staff and deputy defense minister.

Afghanistan will have “peace and stability,” said Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, an Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan aligned with the holdouts in the Panjshir Valley, “if the Taliban who are in Doha and Pakistan agree to a settlement accepting what the world is asking for.”

Mr. Saleh said the group believed “in a genuine peace process, which doesn’t exist at the moment.”

“Should the Taliban be ready for meaningful discussions, we will welcome it,” he said. “If they insist on military conquest, than they better read Afghan history.”

The Panjshir Valley features prominently in that history.

The deep and narrow gorge at the valley’s mouth was tailor-made for obstruction and ambush, and the valley held out not only against the Taliban in the 1990s but also the Soviets in the 1980s. The first Americans to enter Afghanistan in September 2001, a small Central Intelligence Agency team, went to Panjshir to secure the Northern Alliance as allies.

Mr. Saleh said he survived “two attacks and one ambush” by Taliban fighters as he drove to Panjshir on Sunday.

Mr. Saleh, who also previously ran Afghanistan’s spy service, the National Directorate of Security, was cagey about what size force was in Panjshir, saying that he did not want “compromise our military secrets or operational security.”

“But we are on the top of the situation and organizing things,” he said, adding that his team was in touch with other Afghan leaders who fought the Taliban 20 years ago, though he would not name them.

Still, it was far from clear what outside help might arrive or whether Mr. Saleh’s claim to continuity of government under the Afghan Constitution would gain traction.

At least one place has bought in: the Afghan Embassy in Tajikistan. In the carpeted meeting rooms of the building, off a dusty, taxi-clogged street in Dushanbe, Mr. Ghani’s photographs have come down, and Mr. Saleh’s have gone up.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.

Evacuees from Kabul are tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival at Tashkent Airport in Uzbekistan on Tuesday.
Credit…Marc Tessensohn/Bundeswehr, via Getty Images

World Health Organization officials warned on Wednesday that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was impeding efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic and other dire health crises.

Gauging the spread of the coronavirus in Afghanistan has always been difficult because of a lack of testing. The average daily number of reported new cases peaked in late June at more than 2,000 and has since fallen sharply, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. But it is likely that the figures do not reflect the actual spread of the virus.

Afghanistan’s vaccination efforts have struggled since they began in the spring, beset by corruption, limited public health resources and widespread public skepticism. According to Our World in Data, less than 2 percent of Afghanistan’s population has been vaccinated.

“In the midst of a pandemic, we’re extremely concerned by the large displacement of people and increasing cases of diarrhea, malnutrition, high blood pressure, probable cases of Covid-19 and reproductive health complications,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., said at a news conference.

He said that W.H.O staff are still in Afghanistan and are “committed to delivering health services to the most vulnerable.”

Many Afghans are vulnerable to diseases like polio, which has been eradicated in most of the world but is still endemic there. Fourteen million Afghans are suffering from hunger, United Nations officials said on Wednesday.

Aid groups are struggling to provide humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan, as well as to the tens of thousands of refugees a week who are fleeing to neighboring countries.

“The utter desperation for a way out of Afghanistan speaks powerfully to the sense of fear and uncertainty among many Afghans,” said Caroline Van Buren, a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Refugee camps, with their crowded and often unsanitary conditions, can become incubators for the virus, though many camps have fared better than experts initially feared they would.

U.N. officials said that their agencies in Afghanistan were in contact with the Taliban in an effort to coordinate aid and immunizations. Ms. Van Buren said the Taliban had so far provided protection for all of the refugee agency’s offices in the country.

At the same time, though, the Taliban have resumed some of the practices common when they held power 20 years ago. Ms. Van Buren said officials had received reports of women being prohibited from going to work, and, in some areas, barred from leaving their homes without being accompanied by a close male relative.

Some U.N. employees are pulling out. Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for the United Nations secretary general, said a group was leaving Kabul for Kazakhstan on Wednesday to set up a remote office there for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Mr. Dujarric declined to specify exactly how many were leaving, though he said the office in Almaty was expected to employ up to 100 people.

Germans and Afghans arriving in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday after being evacuated from Kabul.
Credit…Armando Babani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has sent thousands of panicked Afghans scrambling to flee the country, but panic is also being felt in some other quarters: Some European politicians are terrified of another mass movement of Muslim asylum seekers.

An influx of migrants, they fear, may fan the embers of the far-right and populist movements that reshaped European politics after a wave of asylum seekers sought refuge from the wars in Syria and Iraq in 2015.

In Germany, even before the first group of 19 Afghan refugees landed on Wednesday, the line was making the rounds in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative camp: “2015 mustn’t be repeated.”

Armin Laschet, who wants to succeed Ms. Merkel as chancellor after next month’s elections, said it on Monday. A party official used the same words shortly after. And then a government minister repeated them yet again.

Support for anti-immigrant parties has been falling, along with the number of migrants. But with important elections looming in Germany and France, the line being drawn by European leaders is early and firm.

That means Afghans may be facing a compassion deficit in Europe that may be insurmountable.

It is not just Europe.

Other countries, especially the United States, faces a similar quandary over accepting Afghan asylum seekers.

Almost everywhere, governments have expressed general willingness to accept Afghans who worked alongside American forces or international aid groups. But they are wary of committing to the many thousands more who might seek to leave to avoid life under the Taliban.

For now, the number of migrants over land routes has been relatively low.

“We’re talking about thousands, not hundreds of thousands, who need and deserve our help, people who are on lists because they worked with us,” said Gerald Knaus, the founding chairman of the European Stability Initiative.

Given the overall drop in migration numbers in recent years, he said, it is “a straw man argument” to raise fears of another wave.

A Taliban fighter in Kabul on Wednesday. According to intelligence officials, the warning that the demise of the Afghan government was days away never came.
Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Intelligence reports presented to President Biden in the final days before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan this past week failed to predict the imminence of the Afghan government’s collapse, even after warnings had grown more grim in July, senior intelligence officials acknowledged on Wednesday.

The intelligence agencies had been stepping up their warnings about the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan throughout the summer. Their reports grew more specific in July, noting how the Taliban had taken control of roads leading to Kabul and how the group had learned lessons from their takeover of the country in the 1990s.

But senior administration officials acknowledged that as the pace of White House meetings on Afghanistan grew more frenzied in August and in the days leading up to the Taliban takeover this weekend, the intelligence agencies did not say the collapse was inevitable.

Over the past year, intelligence agencies shrank their predictions of how quickly the Afghan government would fall, from two years to 18 months to six months to a month, according to current and former officials. But, according to intelligence officials, the warning that its demise was days away never came.

“As the president indicated, this unfolded more quickly than we anticipated, including in the intelligence community,” Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement to The New York Times.

Still, senior officials noted, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies had throughout the fighting season in Afghanistan identified the risk of a rapid collapse and issued increasingly pessimistic reports about the Afghan government’s survival, particularly as President Ashraf Ghani resisted changing military strategies or creating a more inclusive government.

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Flights took off from Kabul’s international airport as world governments worked to evacuate refugees and their citizens from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.CreditCredit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

During the frenzied first 48 hours after the collapse of the Afghan government, the desperate scenes at Kabul’s international airport early this week drew parallels to the fall of Saigon.

Now, even though the airport is under the control of the U.S. military and evacuation flights have been stepped up, tens of thousands of Afghans are still struggling to find a way to escape Taliban rule.

And the American experience in Vietnam is being invoked again — as an illustration of how much more the United States could be doing if it had the political will and international support that followed the American exit from Vietnam.

After the war in Vietnam, a bipartisan consensus and collective sense of moral responsibility helped provide the framework for Operation New Life, which swiftly evacuated 130,000 vulnerable, mainly Vietnamese, people to a makeshift refugee camp on the island of Guam. From there, they were processed and moved to temporary migration centers across the United States.

Over the course of years of sustained efforts, 1.4 million Vietnamese people eventually settled in the country.

Now, the United States is trying to provide safety for a far smaller number, and has struggled in that effort.

Pentagon officials said that the pace of the current flights had quickened after more American troops arrived to secure the Kabul airport, with military planes and a smaller number of commercial flights operating.

“There are important parallels between the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the current situation, with implications for addressing current humanitarian needs,” said Alexander Betts, a professor of forced migration and international affairs at the University of Oxford.

“The parallels should be inspiring,” he said, “and show that with political will and international leadership, large-scale resettlement is possible.”

But he said there was now unlikely to be the same degree of political support for admitting large numbers of refugees.

“The politics of refugee assistance is also very different in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, including public concerns relating to security and refugees from predominantly Muslim countries,” he said.

António Guterres at the U.N. in August.
Credit…United Naitons/EPA, via Shutterstock

The United Nations said Wednesday that it was temporarily relocating some of its aid workers from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan to work remotely, but stressed that it intended to maintain a presence in the country.

“The U.N. is committed to stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need,” a spokesman for Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement Wednesday.

The organization said a group of staff members was en route to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

“In light of security and other constraints in Kabul and other parts of the country at the moment,” the statement said, “it was decided to move part of the U.N. staff out of the country. Personnel will return to Afghanistan as conditions permit.”

The announcement came as humanitarian groups that also provide badly needed aid to the people of Afghanistan were regrouping. Many indicated that they intended to stay in the country, with the Taliban assuring them that their staff would not be harmed.

“At this point, we have not received any specific threat for any of our offices,” Hassan Noor, Asia regional director for Save the Children, said in a briefing on Wednesday. He said Taliban representatives had met with the charity’s staff and told them they would not face consequences for delivering services.

The organization, which offers health, education and nutrition support to Afghan children, said that its staff members — almost 1,800 people working across 10 provinces — would remain in Afghanistan to try to deliver services, depending on how the situation unfolded, and that many humanitarian organizations had also opted to stay.

But as of Saturday, Save the Children programs, which reached about 1.6 million Afghans in 2020, were temporarily suspended, and Mr. Noor said the group had been working on safeguarding workers, some of whom had already been relocated.

“We are extremely concerned about our staff,” he said, “and that is our top priority at the moment.”

Information about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan remains “very murky,” said Mr. Noor, but even before last week, some three million people had already been reported displaced. About 14 million people were having trouble meeting daily food requirements because of an enduring drought in Afghanistan, and some two million children depended on nutrition services to survive.

Girls at a school in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, this year.
Credit…Kiana Hayeri for The New York Times

The previous Taliban rule in Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, was a bleak period for Afghan women, who were barred from working outside the home or leaving the house without a male guardian. The Taliban eliminated schooling for girls and publicly flogged people who violated the group’s morality code.

The question now is whether the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic law will be as draconian as when the group last held power.

Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different this time. In a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman said that women would be allowed to work and study. Another Taliban official said that women should participate in government.

“We assure that there will be no violence against women,” the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said. “No prejudice against women will be allowed, but the Islamic values are our framework.” Pressed for details, he said only that women could participate in society “within the bounds of Islamic law.”

But there are scattered signs that, at least in some areas, the Taliban have begun to reimpose the old order.

Women in some provinces have been told not to leave home without a male relative escorting them. In Herat, in western Afghanistan, Taliban gunmen guarded the university’s gates and prevented female students and instructors from entering the campus on Tuesday, witnesses said.

In the southern city of Kandahar, women’s health care clinics were shut down, a resident said. In some districts, girls’ schools have been closed since the Taliban seized control of them in November.

Women there said they were starting to wear the head-to-toe burqa in the street, partly in fear and partly in anticipation of restrictions ordered by the Taliban.

At Kabul University, in the capital, female students were told they were not allowed to leave their dorm rooms unless accompanied by a male guardian. Two students said they were effectively trapped because they had no male relatives in the city.

In Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, Aliya Kazimy, a 27-year-old university professor, said that women shopping alone in the city’s bazaar had been turned away and told to return with male guardians.

“I am from the generation that had a lot of opportunities after the fall of the Taliban 20 years ago,” she said in a text message. “I was able to achieve my goals of studying, and for a year I’ve been a university professor, and now my future is dark and uncertain. All these years of working hard and dreaming were for nothing. And the little girls who are just starting out, what future awaits them?”

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, right, with the Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, during a meeting in Tianjin in July.
Credit…Li Ran/Xinhua, via Associated Press

For China’s leaders, the chaotic scenes unfolding in Afghanistan have served as stinging vindication of their hostility to American might. But any smugness in Beijing could be premature.

China is now left scrambling to judge how the American defeat could reshape the contest between the world’s two great powers. While the Taliban’s rout has weakened American prestige and its influence on China’s western frontier, it could also create new geopolitical dangers and security risks.

Officials in Beijing worry that extremists could use Afghanistan to regroup on China’s flank and sow violence around the region, even as the Taliban look to deep-pocketed countries like China for aid and investment. The American military withdrawal could also allow the United States to direct its planning and matériel toward countering Chinese power across Asia.

“There should be anxiety rather than glee in Beijing,” said John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Ending the military presence in Afghanistan frees up resources and attention to focus on the long-term rivalry with China.”

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The Coronavirus Pandemic Safety Net Is Coming Apart. Now What?

Distressed homeowners with loans owned by private banks or investors should contact their mortgage servicer to see what options they’re offering. Some of them have followed a framework similar to federally backed loans, but others’ terms may be murkier.

No matter what type of loan you have, the most important action to take now is to reach out to your mortgage servicer to find out when your payments will resume and how much they will be. If you cannot afford them, the servicer can lay out your options. For more guidance, you can also seek out a housing counselor.

The changes made to food stamps — now largely known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — during the pandemic were complicated.

But one significant change, a 15 percent bump in benefits for all recipients, runs only through Sept. 30. So if you currently receive SNAP benefits, they may go down then. (Congress is considering an extension, SNAP policy experts said, and other changes unrelated to the pandemic — including a regular inflation adjustment, along with a potential change to the basket of food that benefits are based on — could also help offset any potential cuts.)

A number of other temporary changes will remain in many states for several more months.

Those changes increased benefits for the program, which is federally funded but run through the states. Beneficiaries have received emergency allotments, which increased their monthly benefits to the maximum amounts permitted or higher. All told, the average daily benefit per person rose to $7 from $4 by April of this year, according to Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the Food Research & Action Center.

Access to the program also became somewhat easier: Certain college students became eligible, unemployed people under 50 without children weren’t subject to time limits and there were fewer administrative hurdles to remaining enrolled, experts said.

The extra allotments can continue to be paid as long as the federal government has declared a public health emergency, which is likely to remain for at least the rest of the year. But the state administering the benefits must also have an emergency declaration in place, and at least six states — Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and South Carolina — have either ended or will soon begin to pull back that extra amount, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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