The spectacle of Afghans climbing over each other in a desperate scramble to board planes leaving Kabul, shows the terror brought by the Taliban victory in Afghanistan.
The US withdrawal precipitated a collapse not only of the Afghan military, but of the Afghan state. Women, ethnic minorities - especially the Shia Hazara people - and anyone who worked for the Afghan government or foreign organisations are in danger.
In July, President Biden said it was "highly unlikely” the Taliban would over-run the country. Less than six weeks later, US diplomats were shredding documents and lifting off from the Kabul Embassy in helicopters, in scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975.
It was former US President Donald Trump who ordered his envoy to do a deal with the Taliban. In return for an agreement to stop hosting al-Qaeda, 5,000 Taliban prisoners were released, and the US agreed to a departure date of 1 May. President Biden let the date slip, but maintained the policy of withdrawal with disastrous consequences. There was no transition planning, just a rush for the exits. All NATO forces left with the Americans.
The Taliban have been administering parts of Afghanistan for several years, and preparing for this moment of victory. They offered soldiers money to defect, which they did in droves. Few had loyalty to the weak and corrupt Afghan government, led by the distant and academic figure of Ashraf Ghani, who fled into exile as the Taliban entered Kabul. Provincial governors and warlords capitulated and swapped sides. It happened in a week.
In Kabul, women and girls are cowering at home, fearful the Taliban will force them to wear the burqa and ban them from education. The Taliban's international wing has said it will not oppress women, but already in other towns previously captured by the insurgents, there are reports of girls being seized to “marry” fighters.
Most Afghans had hoped there would be a peace agreement, which would temper the Taliban's excesses, but a military victory leaves them free to rule as they wish. Some say they are keen on international recognition, so will be less cruel than when they ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s. Others say the younger generation is even more radical and ideological than the old.