• U.S. has intensified and increased the evacuation of US Embassy personnels, American citizens and local Afgan aides to the U.S.
  • Top officials says Taliban could reform sooner than previously anticipated as militants capture Kabul
  • Women fear return of harsh Sharia Law and may lose the right to education and work under Taliban rule

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told senators Sunday that the Al Qaeda could reform sooner than two years as previously estimated by defense officials following the Taliban's recent lightening takeover of Afghanistan’s main cities.

Milley's dire assessment came even as the Taliban released thousands of prisoners from Afghan jails. Among those released were inmates of the Pul-e-Charki prison, which held around 5,000 prisoners. A maximum-security block in the prison, Afghanistan's largest, held al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists.

The independent Afghan news agency published footage that apparently showed the Taliban freeing the prisoners. Videos on Twitter also seemed to show prisoners leaving a Kabul jail after the Taliban takeover of the city.

Milley briefed the Senate that the situation could end up becoming a greater counterterrorism threat. While the bipartisan group of lawmakers were being brief by Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, news of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country and Kabul’s takeover by Taliban spread across Twitter, reported Axios.

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks, which were plotted by the al-Qaeda in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. President Joe Biden's botched Afghan exit could mean Islamist terrorists will find a safe haven to plot attacks agains the U.S. again. In April, two al-Qaeda operatives told CNN that the "war against the U.S. will be continuing on all other fronts unless they are expelled from the rest of the Islamic world."

The U.S. embassy's evacuation operation began Sunday with the securing of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. “Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals,” the Department of State and Department of Defense said in a statement.

"This is remnants of Vietnam, watching helicopters come off and fly by our embassy right now," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, reported CNN. "Yes, I have passion, I have anger. ... For everyone who we promised we would protect, how are they ever going to get out of there as of today?"

More than 20,000 Afghans who are seeking assistance to escape the country are reportedly awaiting evacuation by Aug 31. But, the main challenge for these people is reaching Kabul. Qatar and a few other countries have stepped in to house people at least temporarily. But no agreements have been finalized yet, reported CNN.

As the U.S. and international troops initiated departure in May, the Taliban launched an offensive and the nation witnessed a surge in civilian casualties. According to a UN report published in late July, the Afghan conflict had claimed the lives of over 5,000 citizens since the beginning of 2021. The report revealed that women and children made up about 46% of casualties registered this year.

Since the beginning of record-keeping in 2009, the UN stated that more women and children had been killed in the first six months of this year compared to any other year. Not only that, women’s education and freedom under a Taliban regime are under threat.

Fawzia Koofi, a women's rights activist and member of the Afghan delegation that worked to negotiate peace with the Taliban before the U.S. military's withdrawal, said to NBC News: "Women in Afghanistan are the most at danger or most at-risk population of the country. " Koofi fears women will again become prisoners in their home and says the prisoners freed by Taliban also pose a greater threat.

According to Bloomberg, the Taliban are going door-to-door to compile a list of women and girls, aged 12 to 45 for their fighters to marry by force. The return of the Taliban may also lead to the enforcement of a harsher Sharia Law. Women are already being told that they cannot leave their houses without a male escort. They are also being told not to study or work.

The number of people who can afford to leave the country is growing but for the majority of the citizens, life under Taliban rule looks grim.

Taliban fighters are seen in Afghanistan's Laghman province -- the militants are effectively in power after the country's president Ashraf Ghani fled
Taliban fighters are seen in Afghanistan's Laghman province -- the militants are effectively in power after the country's president Ashraf Ghani fled AFP / -