The Tumultuous Summer That Changed the World

In Afghanistan, August 2021 began ominously.

The Americans and their allies were leaving the country, finally ending their long war after striking an agreement with the Taliban, and leaving the country’s defense to the security forces they had trained and supplied for years. But the Afghan forces were already beginning to buckle. By the end of the summer, the insurgents had seized dozens of districts, rapidly sweeping across the countryside as outpost after outpost folded.

But none of the 34 provincial capitals had fallen. Yet.

The United States was providing limited air support to the beleaguered Afghan forces below and there remained a small hope that the U.S.-sponsored firepower would continue after the United States withdrew completely. President Ashraf Ghani had reshuffled his military leadership, and militia units led by the powerful and notorious warlords of Afghanistan’s past had taken up arms to defend their economic fiefs.

Then, on Aug. 6, Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz…

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This article was written by The New York Times and Thomas Gibbons-Neff and originally published on