In 2001, the US responded to the 9/11 attack by placing American troops in Afghanistan after officials identified Islamist militant group al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden as responsible. The extremist leader was located in Afghanistan under the protection of the Talibans. When they refused to hand him over, the US immediately intervened militarily, quickly removing the Talibans from high ranking positions and vowing to support the quest for democracy and eliminate terrorism. This marked the beginning of the 20 year American influence in Afghanistan.
In 2020, peace talks between the US and the Taliban began tentatively, and the agreement on an American withdrawal came in February 2020 in Qatar. The deal included a commitment by the Talibans to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a base for terrorism who could threaten the West. Yet, this did not stop the Taliban attacks, as the group switched their focus to Afghan forces, civilians and mass assassinations, establishing an aura of terror and fear within the country. In fact, as the last US soldiers boarded a US military airplane on 31 August 2021, terrorists were firing rockets at Kabul Airport and members of the democratically elected government had either fled abroad or were in hiding, effectively leaving a power vacuum for the Talibans to grasp. After a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, the Talibans, once again, took back control of Afghanistan. Yet, their rule had already been assured when they captured Kabul on 15 August.
On 7 September 2021, the Taliban announced an all-male takeover of the government drawn entirely from the Taliban movement, contrary to early promises that the new government would be ‘inclusive’. Henceforth, the rights to education and employment that women have enjoyed for the past 20 years under American rule are slowly deteriorating before their very eyes. The humanitarian situation in the country – who relies extensively on foreign aid — is increasingly desperate, as Afghan foreign assets have been frozen. Many Afghans have fled to neighbouring countries, joining an estimate of 3-4 Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan.
Today, Afghanistan is once again ruled by extremist leaders who govern through fear and whose political objectives hinder society.
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