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Part 1: What’s happening in Afghanistan — A peep into the past13 min read

August 19, 2021 8 min read


Part 1: What’s happening in Afghanistan — A peep into the past13 min read

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Before we go ahead, let’s do a quick recap:

  • The Taliban is back in control in Afghanistan, and the Prime Minister has fled.
  • The Taliban are fighters who want to rid Afghanistan of foreign invasion. The group fought alongside the Mujahideen — armed fighters who were responsible for ousting the Soviet Union.
  • The Taliban brought fresh hope to the people who were sick of decades of wars.
  • They followed a very strict version of Islam and expected everyone to follow it too. Their version of Islam brought much strife to the people, as they believed in harsh rules and even harsher punishments.

9/11 and the ousting of Taliban

Moments after the hijacked commercial planes crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York. Image: Getty Images
Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attack. Image: Alamy

The deadliest terror attack the US has seen shocked the world. This series of attacks saw nineteen terrorists from the group al-Qaeda hijack commercial airlines which were then flown into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Close to 3,000 people died in this terror attack.

The Americans under President George W Bush, as expected, were now in action mode, and gave Mullah Omar (the founder and head of the Taliban) an ultimatum: America wanted the Taliban to hand over to the leader of the al-Qaeda Osama Bin Laden who was said to be the mastermind of 9/11, or else they would attack. The al-Qaeda was operated out of Afghanistan, which is where America hoped to find Bin Laden.

Omar refused and Bin Laden fled, and on October 7, 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan along with the Northern Alliance.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations: The Northern Alliance was primarily a resistance movement against the Taliban-led government in 1996, which was actively supported by many governments. India, Iran, and Russia supported the Northern Alliance in 1996 by providing training, arms and equipment to the fighters on the ground in Afghanistan.

The Taliban was toppled within just a few months by the US and its allies. Omar and other Taliban leaders found sanctuary in Pakistan while they planned, over 20 years, to regain power in Afghanistan.

The Bonn Agreement

In December 2001, the UN invited a number of major Afghan groups to a conference in Germany, where the Bonn Agreement was signed. The agreement aimed at instituting an international peacekeeping force to maintain security and peace in Kabul. By December 21, an interim Afghan government was sworn in led by Hamid Karzai.

UN leaders at the summit to discuss the Bonn Agreement. Image: Getty

Three years later, a new constitution was declared which was based on the reformed constitution of the 1960s, in which women and ethnic minorities were formally granted their rights by the nation’s last king, Mohammad Zahir Shah.

But by 2006, the toppled Taliban had regrouped and was able to mobilize fighters in its battle against the Afghan government and the foreign powers that supported it — the US. The US retained several soldiers in Afghanistan to not only keep the Taliban away and help the Afghan government fight back but also to help develop the country.

The Afghan War

American soldiers in Afghanistan. Credit: Wiki Commons

What followed next was 20 years of conflict called the ‘Afghan War’, on which the US spent more than $2 trillion!

The cost of the 20-year-long war between the Taliban and the Afghan army backed by the US. Image: Al Jazeera

 More than 40,000 civilians were killed in attacks by both the Taliban and the US-led forces. At least 64,000 Afghan military and police and more than 3,500 international soldiers were also killed.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Only three countries, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, recognised the legitimacy of the Taliban.

The Taliban had by now reorganized itself and started to fight back. From 2006 to 2009, violence prevailed. US President Obama, in fact, increased the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, who were by now attacking more often and more severely. Obama then decided to focus on two things — reversing the Taliban’s rise to power and empowering the Afghan government to handle things on its own.

Former US President Barack Obama. Image: Getty

By mid-2011, the Obama government started preparing for an exit from Afghanistan saying that its main target, Osama bin Laden, was captured and killed from a hideout in May 2011 by US special forces.

The US announced that its major combat operations would end in December 2014, leaving only some of its forces in the country.

The exit

Image: Giphy

On February 29, 2020, the United States under Donald Trump, and the Taliban signed a conditional peace deal in Doha, Qatar, which required that US troops withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months, so long as the Taliban cooperated with the terms of the agreement.

According to the agreement, the Taliban will not “allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies”.

Interestingly, the Afghan government was not a party to the deal and rejected it. They were certain that the Taliban would come back to power, but their worries weren’t paid attention to.

After Joe Biden became US president, he moved back the target withdrawal date from May 1, 2021, to September 11, 2021 (the 20th anniversary of 9/11) and then to August 31, 2021.

That’s it for Part 1. Eager to know what happens next? Don’t forget to read Part 2!

Sources: BBC, New York Times, Indian Express, Britannica, AP, India Today, Al Jazeera

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