Taliban has swept to victory in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting. After a settlement between the US and the Taliban, foreign soldiers withdrew from Afghanistan, two decades after US forces ousted the extremists from power in 2001. Thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced as a result of the violence.
What’s next for Afghanistan?
Afghanistan, which is landlocked and mountainous, has seen such chronic instability and conflict throughout its recent history that its economy and infrastructure are in shambles, and many of its citizens have become refugees.
Before we predict the future of Afghanistan, let’s look at the events that led to the US invasion.
On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and the last plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. About three thousand people died in these attacks.Then, President George W. Bush vowed to win the competitive war against terrorism and got his complete focus on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
In 2008, in two separate incidents, hundreds of civilians were killed. This led President Obama to send seventeen thousand more troops to the war zone that aimed to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and all of its haven.
Finally, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed on May 1, 2011, by U.S. forces in Pakistan. He was the one responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. This led to the withdrawal of overall thirty thousand U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
In 2020, Taliban representatives and the Afghan government and civil society met for the first time in twenty years. The deal led to the release of five thousand Taliban prisoners. More U.S. troops were withdrawn from the state.
Despite grave concerns from Afghan officials about the government’s vulnerability to the Taliban without international support, Joe Biden, the new US president, announced in April 2021 that all American forces would leave the country by September 11th, exactly two decades after the World Trade Center was destroyed.
Following this on August 15, 2021, the Taliban forces captured the capital Kabul and took over the presidential palace hours after President Ghani escaped the country. This led to rapid capture of all but two provincial capitals and seized border crossings. An attack on August 26, 2021, killed thirteen U.S. militants outside the Kabul airport. At least sixty afghans were killed and more were injured and the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack. And finally, on August 31, 2021, the U.S. pulled out the remaining troops from the country.
The mayhem is caused by Talibans and the country is in shambles with women’s rights, human rights and political liberties at stake.
But who is the Taliban?
Who is the Taliban?
Following the withdrawal of Soviet soldiers from Afghanistan in the early 1990s, the Taliban, or “students” in Pashto, arose in northern Pakistan. The primarily Pashtun movement is thought to have begun at religious seminaries preaching a fundamentalist brand of Sunni Islam, which was mostly funded by Saudi Arabia.
Once in power, the Taliban promised to restore peace and security in Pashtun territories bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as to apply their own strict form of Sharia, or Islamic law.
They have established a leadership hierarchy with the leader as ‘Mawlawi Hibatullah’ who has ultimate authority on political, religious and military affairs.
The Taliban appeared to adapt their tactics from complicated strikes in cities and on military outposts to a wave of targeted assassinations that terrorized Afghan people in the year following the US-Taliban peace pact of February 2020, which was the culmination of a protracted period of direct discussions.
The Taliban’s targets – journalists, judges, peace campaigners, and powerful women – demonstrated that the Taliban’s radical doctrine had not altered, only their approach.
With the Taliban’s return to power, the US-led coalition’s engagement in Afghanistan comes to an end after nearly two decades.
How has life changed in Afghanistan after 20 years?
Millions of people have been forced to evacuate their homes due to years of conflict, with some seeking shelter in neighboring countries or requesting asylum elsewhere. Many people have been uprooted and made homeless in Afghanistan, while millions more are suffering from poverty and famine.
More than 400,000 people were uprooted by war last year. Since 2012, over five million people have abandoned their homes and have been unable to return. Afghanistan has the world’s third-largest displaced population, according to the UN’s human rights organization.
Thousands of warriors have died on both sides in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan after two decades of fighting. Civilians have also been killed in the fighting, as a result of coalition airstrikes and Taliban targeted attacks. Before the Taliban surged through the country, the number of civilian casualties in 2021 was already much greater than in the same period in 2020.
Internal displacement has already begun to rise as a result of the Taliban advance, according to relief organizations. Over 17,500 migrants landed in Kabul between July 1 and August 15, according to OCHA. The coronavirus pandemic has put a burden on Afghanistan’s national resources, and lockdowns and mobility restrictions have hampered many people’s ability to earn money, particularly in rural areas.
How costly has the war been for the US and has it really accomplished anything?
It is certainly difficult to estimate the number of lives lost. Coalition casualties are far better documented than Taliban and Afghan civilians.
According to Brown University research, the Afghan security forces have suffered 69,000 casualties. The number of civilians and militants killed is estimated to be 51,000 each.
Since 2001, more than 3,500 coalition soldiers have been killed, with almost two-thirds of them being Americans. Over 20,000 American servicemen have been injured.
According to Brown University and other sources, US spending on the conflict is estimated to be around total $2 trillion dollars, including military and rehabilitation funding in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The rise and fall of children and women’s rights
In terms of women’s rights and education, the Taliban regime’s fall allowed for substantial reform and advancement. In 1999, there were no girls enrolled in high schools, and just 9,000 were enrolled in primary schools.
Many people’s lives in Afghanistan have improved in the last 20 years. Women have witnessed some of the most significant developments.
2.4 million females were enrolled in school in 2003. This number has risen to over 3.5 million, with women accounting for around a third of students at both public and private universities.
But, now there is fear that the women’s rights and education will suffer again as the Taliban takes control.
What could happen next?
It’s still unclear how the Taliban intend to administer Afghanistan. Women have a bleak future ahead of them. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, says the group will respect women’s and minorities’ rights “as per Afghan customs and Islamic values.”
The insurgents had declared an amnesty across Afghanistan and stated that women should be allowed to join their administration. However, under Taliban rule, women’s ability to work, dress as they choose, and even leave home alone is a source of concern.
Another significant concern is that the country will once again be used as a terrorist training ground. Officials from the Taliban have stated that they will completely implement the US agreement and will prevent any group from utilising Afghan soil as a base for operations against the US and its allies.
They claim that their primary goal is to establish an “Islamic government” and that they will not constitute a threat to other countries. However, many observers believe the Taliban and al-Qaeda are inextricably linked, with al-Qaeda fighters actively integrated and engaged in training.
It’s also worth remembering that the Taliban isn’t a centralised, cohesive force. It’s also uncertain how powerful al-Qaeda is and whether it can now reestablish its global network.
There is also a possibility for the civil war to start.
Although we see so many uncertainties and cannot exactly predict the future, many political critics and analysts said that the US has waged a war for 20 years which led to worse outcomes than good results. The US president Biden is facing staunch criticism that he did not plan the withdrawal correctly and gave more power to the Talibans that caused turmoil in Afghanistan.
1979: The Soviet Army invades and backs up the communist regime in 1979. The war that follows kills almost a million people.
1989: The last Soviet troops withdraw in 1989. The mujahideen’s campaign to depose Afghan king Najibullah, who was installed by the Soviets, sparks a terrible civil war.
1996: The Taliban conquer Kabul and impose a strict interpretation of Islam.
Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, the United States intervened militarily. Taliban are driven out of Kabul, and Hamid Karzai is appointed as the interim leader of a power-sharing government.
2001: Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, the United States intervened militarily. Taliban are driven out of Kabul, and Hamid Karzai is appointed as the interim leader of a power-sharing government.
2002: Nato takes over responsibility for security in Afghanistan in 2002.
2004: The Loya Jirga passes a new constitution that establishes a strong presidency. Hamid Karzai has been elected president of Afghanistan.
2014: President Ashraf Ghani is elected in 2014. NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan comes to an end, with Afghan forces taking control in the face of a burgeoning insurgency.
2021: After US forces withdraw in 2021, the Taliban retake Kabul.
Power Words :
Critical thinking challenge question :
Do you think Afghanistan will be able to fight back and retake their power from the Taliban anytime soon? Support your answers.
Watch this video for further learning :
US war in Afghanistan
Are you ready for the quiz?