Two decades after the war on terrorism began officially, the United States has pulled out the few remaining troops, leaving Afghanistan to its own devices.
After ousting the ultra conservative Islamic group, the Taliban, in 2001 in an attempt to create a modern democracy in the resource-rich nation, the outcome mirrors that of before the U.S. stepped in. The Taliban now control the government and celebrate “full independence.” The U.S. leaves Afghanistan in a state of uncertainty, after spending hundreds of billions of dollars in order to alleviate the oppressive forces of the Taliban.
One of the first interactions between the world superpower and their extremist counterparts occurred in 1986 when Reagan sent the experimental Stinger missiles to the Mujahideen tribe. This was used as an effort to fend off the Soviets and end the Cold War. This decision would ultimately haunt the U.S. as a sect of this tribe would break off and become the Taliban, ultimately using these weapons and training against the country that gifted them. The conflict truly began to brew when the Taliban refused to surrender Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
President Bush sent troops to Afghanistan to retrieve bin Laden, which would soon spiral into a critical aspect of the following three presidencies. In 2015, President Obama promised to withdraw troops before the end of his presidency, but he ultimately chose to leave the soldiers for President Trump. Similarly, President Trump assured citizens that all troops would be removed by May 2021. However, he chose to leave some forces in Afghanistan and cut the number to 2,500 soldiers. Thus, Biden’s new goal was to have all U.S. presence in Afghanistan be removed completely by the anniversary of 9/11. On August 30, the final battalion left.
Initiating the removal of forces, the U.S. pulled air support and intelligence agencies. Therefore, when the Taliban invaded the capital city of Kabul, citizens were left defenseless. Ultimately conquering the city, the Taliban now control the majority of the country. While the Taliban controlled only 25 percent of Afghanistan’s land this summer, they are now positioned to take control of the country.
Afghanistan’s President, Ashraf Ghani, fled the nation in response to the Taliban’s takeover. Biden commented that their seizure of the country “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
The removal of U.S. forces caused tension and confusion throughout the land and ultimately led to violence. U.S. planes were leaving the Kabul airport as citizens attempted to cling to the planes in order to escape. Two suicide bombers launched an attack that killed 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. personnel on August 26. This was a trigger for the U.S, who launched a final airstrike against ISIS-K, which allegedly killed 10 Afghans, though the Pentagon is launching an investigation.
Any remaining Americans will use alternative methods to leave the country.
Now that the Taliban is in control, uncertainty clouds the political scene in Afghanistan. They claim that citizens who worked for U.S. forces will not be punished; however, past behaviors call this into doubt. Ultimately, this is a big change for both nations, and the true effects may not be seen for months to come.
When asked about his thoughts on this subject, Fenwick history teacher Mr. Wieckiewicz said, “the only way to win a war in Afghanistan is to not fight a war in Afghanistan.” This popular saying reflects the Middle Eastern nation’s history of unwinnable conflicts. Now, the United States will be considered one of the nations that attempted to help, but to no avail, despite a seemingly positive outlook.
This decision is one that will have major impacts on the global political climate, and results will play out over time. Until then, it is important to support soldiers who are returning, families who have lost a family member to the war, the refugees of Afghanistan, and the citizens who still reside there. This can be done by donating through regulated nonprofit organizations, as well as simply reaching out to those in your own community.