Afghanistan’s Taliban crisis and America’s responsibility

U.S. intervention in the middle east makes us partly responsible for cleaning up the mess


Photo courtesy of (Breanna Carr)

Taliban forces in Afghanistan in August 2021

Janjabill Tashin, Opinions Staff Writer

Imagine you wake up on September 12, 2001. School was canceled. Few people go to work. You are stuck. Literally, as planes were grounded, subways and trains running minimally if not canceled altogether, and many streets overflowing with vehicles. You are also stuck emotionally. Trapped between feelings of grief, shock, fear, and anger, today was the beginning of a new era, because everyone asked the same question. Why?

In response to the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, officials identified al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden, as responsible. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, under the protection of the Taliban, an Islamist fundamentalist political movement, and military organization in power since 1996. 

When the Taliban refused to hand him over, the U.S. intervened militarily, quickly removing the Taliban, and eliminating the terrorist threat. However, the militants slipped away and later regrouped. 

A new Afghan government took over in 2004 by the time the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) joined. President Barack Obama’s “troop surge” in 2009 helped push back deadly Taliban attacks but it was not long term. 

In 2014, NATO’s international forces ended their combat mission, leaving responsibility to the Afghan army for the security of the country. According to BBC News, “they gave the Taliban momentum and they seized more territory” after coalition troops remained to help train and advise Afghan security forces when President Barack Obama’s plan was to withdraw all combat troops by 2014. 

Until February 2020, the war remained at large with the continuation of combat missions, “which involved air strikes against drug labs and opium production sites” as stated by the Council on Foreign Relations. It also involved the Taliban continuing to seize territory, including provincial capitals, across the country. The group briefly captured capitals Farah Province and Ghazni Province in May and August 2018 before U.S. and Afghan troops regained control. 

The U.S. government and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in February 2020 for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Under the agreement, the United States pledged to reduce the size of U.S. troops to approximately 8,500 within 135 days and complete a full withdrawal within fourteen months in exchange for the Taliban to prevent territory under its control from being used by terrorist groups and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government. However, after a brief reduction in violence, the Taliban quickly resumed attacks on Afghan security forces and civilians. 

Violence across Afghanistan continued in 2020 and 2021 as the United States increased air strikes and raids targeting the Taliban. Meanwhile, the Taliban followed through with attacks against the Afghan government and security forces targets and made territorial gains. 

In addition to the Taliban’s attacks, Afghanistan faces a threat from the Islamic State in Khorasan, “which has also expanded its presence in several eastern provinces, attacked Kabul, and targeted civilians with suicide attacks” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

President Joe Biden announced that U.S. military forces would leave Afghanistan by September 2021. By the end of July 2021, nearly 95 percent of troops withdrew, leaving just 650 military forces to protect the U.S. embassy in Kabul. 

Statistics show the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. The takeover also threatens to reverse women’s movements made to secure the rights of women and girls and that the country will become a training ground for terrorism. 

Although the United States and its allies have pledged to continue providing support to the Afghan government in late 2020, they could reduce aid following the Taliban takeover. However, such a move could worsen Afghanistan’s economic situation, as it increases internal instability with refugees, and a growing humanitarian crisis could have regional ramifications as neighboring countries respond. 

Don’t let Afghanistan be overshadowed by racial bias. Since 2012, five million people have fled the country and have not been able to return home, either displaced or taking refuge in neighboring countries. They say the war is “over,” but Afghanistan’s issues are only getting worse because of one thing: ignorance.