Afghanistan fell to the control of the Taliban, or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, on Sunday, 15 August 2021. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organization. One of its leaders has been proclaimed President of Afghanistan. The collapse came after nearly 20 years of occupation by United States forces.
The American-Afghanistan conflict began on 7 October 2001 when American forces invaded Afghanistan, and the United States and its allies drove the Taliban from power. The reason for the invasion was in answer to the 11 September 2001 attack on the United States and the desire to deny a safe base of operations for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. America is not the first nation to lose in Afghanistan. This site gives a brief history of the land known as Afghanistan.
The land that is now Afghanistan has a
long history of domination by foreign conquerors and strife among internally
warring factions. At the gateway between Asia and Europe, this land was conquered
by Darius I of Babylonia circa 500 B.C., and Alexander the Great of Macedonia
in 329 B.C., among others.
Mahmud of Ghazni, an 11th
century conqueror who created an empire form Iran to India, is considered the
greatest of Afghanistan’s conquerors.
Genghis Khan took over the territory in
the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 1700s that the area was
united as a single country. By 1870, after the area had been invaded by various
Arab conquerors, Islam had taken root.
During the 19th century,
Britain, looking to protect its Indian empire from Russia, attempted to annex
Afghanistan, resulting in a series of British-Afghan Wars (1838-42, 1878-80,
The British, beleaguered in the wake of
World War I, are defeated in the Third British-Afghan War (1919-21), and
Afghanistan becomes an independent nation. Concerned that Afghanistan has
fallen behind the rest of the world, Amir Amanullah Khan begins a rigorous
campaign of socioeconomic reform.
In 1926 Amanullah declared
Afghanistan to be a monarchy, rather than an emirate, and proclaimed himself to
be king of Afghanistan. He tried to institute plans to modernize the nation and
limit the power of the Loya Jirga, the National Council. His attempts caused
critics, frustrations, and people taking up arms in 1928. He abdicated and left
the country in 1929.
Zahir Shah became the king in 1933
and brought some stability to the nation. He ruled for 40 years. The United
States formally recognized Afghanistan in 1934. Britain withdrew from India in
1947 and created “the predominantly Hindu but secular state of India and the
Islamic state of Pakistan.” The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is “a
long, largely uncontrollable” border.
In 1953, Mohammed Daoud Khan, a
cousin of the king and a pro-Soviet, became prime minister. He looked to Russia
“for economic and military assistance” and introduced “a number of social
reforms including allowing women a more public presence.” In 1956, Soviet
Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to help Afghanistan and became a close ally.
In 1957, women were “allowed to attend university and enter the workforce.”
The Afghan Communist Party was
formed secretly in 1965. In 1973, Khan overthrew the last king, Mohammed Zahir
Shah, in a military coup. His regime, the People’s Democratic Party of
Afghanistan, took power. Khan abolished the monarchy and named himself
president. The Republic of Afghanistan became firmly tied to the USSR.
Khan proposed a new constitution
granting women rights and worked to modernize the nation. He was killed in a
communist coup in 1978. Nur Mohammad Taraki became the president, and Babrak
Karmal became the deputy prime minister – both founding members of the Afghan
In 1979, American Ambassador Adolph
Dubs was killed, and the United States stopped assistance to Afghanistan. On
December 24, 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan and executed several Afghan
leaders. There were “violent public demonstrations.” Early in 1980, the
Mujahadeen rebels began fighting the Soviet invaders and the USSR-backed Afghan
In 1982, 2.8 million Afghans fled to
Pakistan, and 1.5 million fled to Iran. The Afghan guerrillas controlled rural
areas, and the Soviet troops controlled the urban areas. Saudi Islamist Osama
bin Laden made his first documented trip to Afghanistan in 1984 to help the
The United States, Britain, and
China provide arms to the Mujahadeen via Pakistan in 1986. In September 1988, Osama
bin Laden with 15 other Islamists formed al Qaida, or “the base,” to fight
their jihad, or holy war, against the Soviets. They thought that they were
winning the war with the Soviets and began planning to attack America.
Peace accords were signed in Geneva
in 1989 between the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union.
These accords guaranteed the withdrawal of 100,000 Soviet troops and Afghan
independence. The Afghan guerrillas continued their resistance against the “puppet
Soviet state” and had an exiled government. The Taliban, an Islamic militia,
was formed in 1995 and gained power by promising peace.
Most Afghans, exhausted by years of
drought, famine and war, approve of the Taliban for upholding traditional
Islamic values. The Taliban outlaw cultivation of poppies for the opium trade,
crack down on crime, and curtail the education and employment of women. Women
are required to be fully veiled and are not allowed outside alone. Islamic law
is enforced via public executions and amputations. The United States refuses to
recognize the authority of the Taliban.
A continuing drought in 1995-1999
devastated farmers, and more than 1 million Afghans fled to Pakistan, living in
“squalid refugee camps. In 1997, ethnic groups in the north and the south of
Afghanistan “battled the Taliban for control of the country.” President Bill Clinton
ordered cruise missile attacks against bin Laden’s training camps in
Afghanistan after al-Qaida bombed two American embassies in Africa, but bin
Laden and other leaders escaped.
By 2000, bin Laden was considered to
be an international terrorist hiding in Afghanistan where he cultivated “thousands
of followers in terrorist training camps.” The United States demanded that bin
Laden be extradited to stand trial for the bombing of the two embassies, but
the Taliban declined to extradite him. Afghanistan was sanctioned by the United
Nations to restrict trade and economic development.
Al-Qaida continued their terrorist
activities. On September 11, 2001, four commercial aircraft were hijacked and
crashed into the World Trade Center Towers in New York, the Pentagon outside
Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field, killing approximately 3,000 people.
A few days later, U.S. officials claimed that the attacked were engineered by
bin Laden. The United States demanded that bin Laden be turned over for trial,
but their demands were denied.
On October 7, 2001, forces from the
United States and Great Britain launched airstrikes against targets in
Afghanistan. The warplane bombed Taliban targets and bases thought to belong to
the al-Qaida network. In December 2001, the Taliban leaders surrendered their
last hold on Afghanistan in Kandahar.
On December 22, 2001, Hamid Karzai
was sworn in as the leader of the interim government in Afghanistan. In June
2002, he was again chosen to lead an interim government until 2004. NATO took
over security in Kabul in August 2003 because of increased violence. In January
2004, a new constitution was adopted after input from nearly 500,000 Afghans.
In October 2004, Karzai was elected as president with 55 percent of the vote
from more than 10.5 million Afghans.
Taliban and al-Qaeda members
continued fighting against Afghan government forces, and NATO expanded its security
responsibilities. On May 2, 2011, United States forces attacked a compound in
Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden. In December 2014, NATO
officially ended its combat mission in Afghanistan, but U.S.-led NATO troops
stayed to train and advise Afghan forces.
After several years of training and
advising the Afghan troops, President Donald Trump said that it was time to
bring America’s troops home. On February 29, 2020, the “Trump administration [signed]
a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government, freed
5,000 imprisoned Taliban soldiers and set a date certain of May 1, 2021, for
the final withdrawal.”
The Trump administration reduced
American troops from about 13,000 to 2,500, even though the Taliban, including leaders
from al-Qaeda, continued to attack Afghan government forces. The Biden
administration delayed the date of withdrawal from May to August 31. He
followed through with the withdrawal despite signs of trouble. The “Taliban
wasn’t complying with the agreement and had a stated goal to create an ‘Islamic
government’ in Afghanistan after the U.S. left, even if it meant it had to ‘continue
our war to achieve our goal.’”
On April 14, 2021, Biden announced
that it was “time to end the forever war” and that Americans would be removed
from Afghanistan by September 11. “We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit….
We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely.” He assured Americans that
the Afghan military had over 300,000 personnel who were trained and equipped to
“continue to fight valiantly, on behalf of the Afghans, at great cost.”
The Taliban did not accept the delay,
saying that “failure to complete the withdrawal by May 1 “opens the way for
[the Taliban] to take every necessary countermeasure, hence the American side
will be held responsible for all future consequences.” Trump encouraged Biden
to maintain the May 1 withdrawal date.
The Taliban increased its attacks
against the Afghanistan government forces. U.S. forces pulled out of Bagram
Airfield, the largest airfield in Afghanistan, on July 6. They left in the
night without notifying Afghanistan government forces. The Taliban confiscated
all the equipment and ammunition left by the Americans. Two days later, Biden
moved the withdrawal date to August 31, saying “speed is safety.” He
acknowledged that the Taliban “is at its strongest militarily since 2001,” but
said that going back on the agreement would mean more American casualties.
Biden assured Americans that it “is
not inevitable” that the Taliban would take over Afghanistan, and he denied
intelligence sources saying that the government in Afghanistan would likely collapse.
He claimed that withdrawing from Afghanistan would be nothing like the
withdrawal from Vietnam. He did not consider the Taliban as capable of forcing
such a rushed withdrawal.
The Taliban took control of its
first province on August 6 and entered the Afghanistan capital Kabul on August
15. The Afghan president fled the country, and the United Stated evacuated
diplomats from its embassy by helicopter – much like the fall of Saigon. Aircraft
carrying Americans to safety took off with Afghans clinging to the outside of
the airplane – falling to their deaths.
Biden still believes that leaving
Afghanistan was the right thing to do, even if the withdrawal was botched. He
said that the “buck stopped” with him, but he blamed the Afghan military for
being too weak to defend their country, even though he withdrew their means of
fighting. He also blamed Trump for planning the withdrawal and forcing him to
carry it out.
The problem is that Biden is a different
president than Trump. According to Trump, he threatened the Taliban, saying if “you
decide to do something terrible to our country … we are going to come back and we
are going to hit you harder than any country has ever been hit.” The Taliban know
that Trump would keep his word, but they are not afraid of Biden. Trump would
not have closed Bagram Airfield before all the Americans were out of
Afghanistan, and he would have been dropping bombs on the Taliban before they
reached Kabul! A strong leader deters attacks, while a weak leader invites