Media speculation is growing the fall of Kabul could have been avoided, if the Biden administration accepted a militant group’s peace offer.

The Taliban held secret diplomatic talks with the United States before seizing control of the presidential palace on Aug. 15. Namely, fighters gave U.S. forces a chance to maintain control of the city until a “peaceful transfer” of power could happen.

“We have two options to deal with it,” Taliban political leader Abdul Ghani Baradar said according to the Washington Post. “You [the U.S. military] take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it.”

The United States ultimately agreed to let fighters take over and continued withdrawing troops before Aug. 31. This was on the condition Hamid Karzai International Airport stays under the U.S. control until the deadline.

This deal, and the sudden departure of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, allowed the Taliban to quickly enter and take over the capitol. When fighters entered the empty palace they could not believe their luck.

“We did not see a single soldier or police [officer,]” Taliban commander Muhammad Nasir Haqqani said according to the paper. “We could not control our emotions, we were so happy, [and] most of our fighters were crying–we never thought we would take Kabul so quickly.”

In the days that followed the Middle Eastern country quickly descended into chaos. U.S. troops rushed to rescue evacuees, many of whom were stopped at Taliban checkpoints. This forced many Afghans who helped U.S. forces into hiding despite being authorized to leave.

An August 26 Islamic State bombing outside the airport terminal killed 13 U.S. servicemen, most of whom were still in their twenties.

On August 31, the last U.S. troops evacuated Kabul and Taliban fighters quickly took over the airport.

The United States successfully airlifted nearly 123,000 people out of the capitol. However, tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans were left behind according to Reuters.

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