The vicious and horrific atrocities of September 11th, 2001, not only shook the world but also began a new chapter in its history. The trail of the attacks led to Afghanistan and its government at that time which was the Taliban. The United States of America wanted the Taliban government to hand over Osama bin Laden who was said to have been responsible for the deadly attacks. On the refusal to do so, the United States of America launched attacks on Afghanistan and dislodged the Taliban government. These attacks were a war which lasted for 20 years.
Afghanistan is a country known to be at constant conflict with itself and the outside world. It has been invaded several times by various people in history. With a number of unsuccessful bids to rule Afghanistan, the country became to be known as the “graveyard of empires.” Here is a look back at how history unfolded in Afghanistan.
The earliest conqueror of Afghanistan was Alexander the Great. He conquered Afghanistan in 330 B.C. and brought with him Hellenic language and culture. The purpose of his invasion was as part of a greater plan to conquer the Persian empire. In the 13th century, Genghis Khan’s Mongols invaded Afghanistan. Later on in 1747, a group of Pashtun elders held a council meeting known as a Jirga and enforced the Kingdom of Afghans on its people. Afghanistan is perhaps most famous for the British invasions. Both the British and Afghans fought three wars in the 19th and 20th centuries. The British could not acclimatize themselves to the rough Afghan terrain and eventually were defeated in 1919. The Afghans then formed an independent monarchy in 1921.
The monarchy ruled Afghanistan for 52 years, with Zahir Shah being the last King of Afghanistan. In 1964, Zahir Shah introduced a liberal constitution in which the King himself appointed one third of the deputies. The people elected another third through vote and the rest were selected by provincial assemblies. This system of governance produced very little in the way of reforms and gave birth to many right- and left-wing political parties. Amongst these was the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan(PDPA) which had close ties to the Soviet Union. In 1978, the PDPA seized power in a bloody military coup and renamed the country as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The PDPA government lasted till 1992. During their rule, the PDPA introduced many liberal laws. Being secular in nature, they did not allow men to keep beards. Women could roam around freely and did not have to cover themselves in public. On the subject of women, the PDPA introduced many reforms on women’s rights, banning forced marriages and allowing them to vote. Due to their close links with the Soviet Union, the PDPA invited the Soviets to build Afghanistan’s infrastructure. As a result, the USSR built roads, schools and hospitals. They also trained and equipped the Afghan army. The USSR also pledged monetary aid to Afghanistan amounting to over $1 billion. However, with so much influence, the USSR was pulled into Afghan politics and ended up becoming one of the many invaders to invade Afghanistan in what was yet another occupation.
The USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan worried the US, where the leaders were generally of the opinion that if the Soviets took over Afghanistan, communism would rise and spread throughout the region. In order to tackle and counter this threat, the Carter and Reagan administrations, with immense help from Pakistan (due to it’s proximity with Afghanistan), began supporting a group of rugged militiamen known as the mujahideen or freedom fighters to fight the USSR. It was estimated that the United States spent up to $40 billion in cash and weapons on the mujahideen. A lot of money was spent on Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The majority of transporting weapons to the mujahideen was done through Pakistan.
The outcome of this war was severe – as 500,000 to 2 million Afghans were killed. Many war crimes were also reported. People began fleeing out of Afghanistan as refugees were reported to be about 6 million. Most of these people made Pakistan and Iran their place of refuge. The result of the war saw the Soviets fleeing Afghanistan, as they witnessed many casualties. With the Soviets leaving, Afghanistan fell into civil war until the Taliban took control somewhere in 1995-1996.
In today’s world, the war on Afghanistan after the September 11th 2001 attacks has been declared to be over by both the United States and Taliban. Ever since it was declared by former by former U.S President Donald Trump that Washington would pull out its troops, there was a general sense of anxiety and anticipation that the Taliban would regroup and once again gain great power in Afghanistan. What surprised and shocked the world was the momentum at which the Taliban took over province after province and finally entered Kabul without a bullet being fired. It is estimated that the United States spent $42 billion on Afghanistan every year from 2001-2021, with the majority of the money being spent on the U.S military in Afghanistan, the Afghan governments of Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani and on the Afghan national army. The United States of America spent much money and dedication on the Afghan National Army through training and purchasing equipment. An extraordinary amount of funds within the $42 billion was spent on establishing an Afghan air force and purchasing fighter jets. It is pertinent to also mention that the salaries of the Afghan forces were being paid by the United States of America.
Perhaps the Afghan forces realized that the US were leaving Afghanistan and hence their pay cheques would also stop, hence they did not put up a resistance against the Taliban.
Nonetheless, the reality is that the Taliban did what they wanted to do and said what they wanted to say. Upon capturing Afghanistan yet again, the Taliban have named the country as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In addition to this, the message of the Taliban not allowing anyone to use Afghanistan’s soil against any country and providing equal rights to women under the banner of Shariah Law seems to be something positive and even promising.
As to how serious the Taliban are with their words: that is something that only time can tell.