After 20 years of occupation, US troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan
Proceeding the climax of President Donald Trump’s presidency, Biden’s first term began. He officially became the 46th President of the United States on the 20th of January 2021. However, just 3 months after his inauguration, on the 13th of April 2021, Biden announced that “We accomplished our objective” after 19 years and 6 months of conflict in Afghanistan.
This US Invasion of Afghanistan, begun by President George Bush as missile strikes on “Terrorist training camps” in Afghanistan, was a direct retaliation of the devastating terrorist attack that shook the US on 11th September 2002, when the terrorist group, so-called “Al Qaeda” led by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, hijacked 4 planes and mounted a devastating attack on both World Trade Centre Towers, the Pentagon and attempted the White House. “Our objective was clear, our cause was just”, Biden stated.
However, was this war on Afghanistan more than just about terrorism? Al Qaeda was set up in response to the Soviet-US conflict, triggered by the Soviet expansion to Afghanistan to aid the People’s Party of Afghanistan against the growing insurgency in the country. However, the US is a capitalist continent, and saw the Afghan expansion, in the middle of the Cold War, as a threat, so retaliated, as communist control of Afghanistan could easily trigger the start of both the first Nuclear War and the start of World War three. This happened years before the 9/11 attack, in the December of 1979, so was the terrorist attack by Al Qaeda just an excuse for the US to launch a full-out assault on Afghanistan, scattering Al Qaeda and killing Osama Bin Laden, as well as granting full US control of the country and its government?
“To prevent future terrorist attacks planned from Afghanistan” was the reason Biden gave, and in his words, the US did “Accomplish our objective” and successfully removed both Al Qaeda and Soviet presence from Afghanistan. So why did they stay for another ten years after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden on the 2nd of May 2011?
The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban Influence
The Taliban, or “Students” in the Pashto language, now led by Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, a devoted religious scholar, was a movement set up in Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. This movement began following the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan after the US invasion. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the group quickly grew in size and its influence spread across both Pakistan and Afghanistan. They stated that once in power they would bring peace, security and enforce the traditional, religious laws of Sunni Islam, which many Afghans supported.
In the September of 1996, they captured the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, and overthrew President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Many Afghans also supported this due to the Taliban’s work in clearing corruption and lawlessness and making the areas under their control safe, however, this came with a price for the Afghan as along with their own Islamic laws, they imposed traditional Islamic punishments, such as public executions of murders and amputation of thieves.
Soon they controlled almost 70% of Afghanistan, despite the countless claims of breaches of human rights and many cultural cases of abuse such as the destruction of Bamiyan Buddha statues in central Afghanistan.
This is why the US forces have stayed in Afghanistan, to ensure that Afghanistan could “prevent future terrorist attacks planned from Afghanistan” by the Taliban. This fear arose first from their inhumane treatment of the Afghan people, but also from accusations of them harboring Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda members after the 9/11 attacks.
Following these attacks on the US, a large coalition US-led army invaded Afghanistan and by the first week of December caused the complete collapse of the Taliban regime, however, many key members fled and avoided capture, despite the world’s biggest manhunt. They are believed to have been seeking refuge in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
However, the Taliban gradually regrouped and recruited and were back to full strength and influence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, causing levels of violence and civil unrest in the country not seen since the 2001 invasion. However, In 2013, a large US Military Drone assault on the Pakistani Taliban reduced their influence, killing at least 3 key members, including their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.
Talks of negotiated peace began in 2013, however with mistrust on both sides and continuous violence no peace came about, and eventually, the Taliban seized control, once again, of the capital of the province, Kunduz. However, after a US drone attack in 2016 killed the Taliban leader, Mullah Mansour, he has been replaced by his deputy Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, who, since 2018, has been continuing direct peace talks with the US, looking to end this long-running conflict, believing that both sides have lost tens of thousands of lives.
Could this US demilitarization of Afghanistan end the longest-running war in US history? Biden stated that troops will have withdrawn from Afghanistan by the 11th September 2021, their objective has been “Accomplished”.
The Taliban responded saying “We have won the war”, could this withdrawal spark more civil unrest in Afghanistan and Pakistan, perhaps even the neighboring countries such as Iran?
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