Let’s stipulate that the U.S. hasn’t had a clear objective in Afghanistan since Osama Bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora, and that the whole effort has been mismanaged from Bush’s initial strategy to Trump and Pompeo’s “deal” to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. And let’s confirm Fareed Zakaria’s take that, “There is no elegant way to lose a war.” And, for argument’s sake, let’s even cede Natl Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s point about Biden’s thinking on ending U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. “Should U.S. men and women be put into the middle of another country’s civil war when their own army won’t fight to defend them? His answer to that question was no.” But there’s another question: Should the Afghan men and women who fought and worked alongside those American men and women have been abandoned? The answer to that question is also no. The US pullout from Afghanistan has been an intel and military disaster, adds another stain on America’s world leadership status, and deals a blow to Joe Biden’s empathic brand. How could we not know, after 20 years, that the Taliban would take control of the country in days? How was it not clear that the already weak Afghan military couldn’t possibly defend cities from the Taliban without US airpower? How were we so unprepared to get Americans and our allies out of the country that we actually had to send troops back in after we had pulled them out?

+ George Packer in The Atlantic: “There’s plenty of blame to go around for the 20-year debacle in Afghanistan—enough to fill a library of books. Perhaps the effort to rebuild the country was doomed from the start. But our abandonment of the Afghans who helped us, counted on us, staked their lives on us, is a final, gratuitous shame that we could have avoided. The Biden administration failed to heed the warnings on Afghanistan, failed to act with urgency—and its failure has left tens of thousands of Afghans to a terrible fate. This betrayal will live in infamy.” (And let’s be honest, this particular section of infamy is getting crowded.)

+ Steve Coll in conversation with Isaac Chotiner in The New Yorker: “The Afghans now have suffered generation after generation of not just continuous warfare but humanitarian crises, one after the other, and Americans have to remember that this wasn’t a civil war that the Afghans started among themselves that the rest of the world got sucked into. This situation was triggered by an outside invasion, initially by the Soviet Union, during the Cold War, and since then the country has been a battleground for regional and global powers seeking their own security by trying to militarily intervene in Afghanistan, whether it be the United States after 2001, the C.I.A. in the nineteen-eighties, Pakistan through its support first for the mujahideen and later the Taliban, or Iran and its clients. To blame Afghans for not getting their act together in light of that history is just wrong.”

+ Congressman and Marine Seth Mouton: “To our Afghanistan veterans and their families, I am too honest to stand here today and try to convince you that your sacrifice was worth it.”

+ The indelible image: “In a distressing video, Afghans can be seen attempting to hold onto a U.S. military plane as it takes off from Kabul airport.” And here are more photos from the scene. The Taliban in the presidential office might remind you of another insurrection.

+ The US is evacuating staff from Kabul—Russia and China are not.

+ The latest from BBC and CNN.