In retribution for the 9/11 attacks, US President George W. Bush ordered an invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. In the months that followed, US and NATO forces, along with their Afghan allies in the Northern Alliance, tracked down al Qaeda and overthrew the Taliban rule. Bin Laden escaped to Pakistan, while Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s commander, sought refuge in the mountains. Taliban commanders and fighters have returned to their homes or fled to Pakistani safe-havens. Skillful diplomatic efforts led by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad produced a mechanism that resulted in the formation of a new Afghan government led by the accommodative Hamid Karzai.
Afghanistan was deceptively quiet for the following four years. President Bush kept a small U.S. military presence in the nation (about 8,000 troops in 2002 to roughly 20,000 by 2005) with the goal of finishing the defeat of al Qaeda and the Taliban and assisting in the establishment of a new democracy that would deter terrorists from returning. The aim was to pull out eventually, killing or capturing al Qaeda and Taliban commanders. Despite this, political development generated hope. A new constitution was passed by the Afghan Loya jirga, or grand council, in January 2004.
Karzai worked tirelessly to bring the country’s many groups together. The Taliban, on the other hand, were regrouping in Pakistan. Mullah Omar, who was still in hiding at the time, issued a voice recording to his followers in early 2003, urging them to reorganize the organization and prepare for a great offensive in a few years. The Quetta Shura was formed by key Taliban members. Training and recruitment progressed. Cadres have infiltrated Afghanistan again.
The Taliban pounced in February 2006, after the violence had gradually grown. Thousands of militants encircled provincial capitals and overran whole regions. The Quetta Shura established a parallel government. The Taliban took control of most of the country’s south and much of its east during the following three years. Heavy combat drew US soldiers and their NATO partners into the fray. By the end of 2008, the number of US troops in Afghanistan had increased to almost 30,000, with no signs of slowing down. Nonetheless, the general plan remained unchanged. Bush was adamant about defeating the Taliban.
President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 pledging to turn around “the good war” in Afghanistan as opposed to “the bad war” in Iraq. After much deliberation, he decided to deploy reinforcements to Afghanistan: 21,000 troops in March and then another 30,000 or more in December, bringing the total number of US forces in Afghanistan to close to 100,000. He confined the aims of this “surge” to removing the terrorist threat to the American homeland since he was wary of stretching the war.
Bush’s determination to destroy the Taliban no matter what, notwithstanding the Taliban’s inability to prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as a safe haven was changed. Instead, the US would deny al Qaeda a safe haven, turn the tide against the Taliban, and bolster the Afghan government and security forces. The objective was to start drawing down the surge forces in mid-2011, with the Afghan government eventually taking full responsibility for the country’s security.
The surge stabilized the most major cities and districts during the following three years, revitalized the Afghan army and police, and galvanized support for the government. After bin Laden was killed by US special operations troops in Pakistan in 2011, the danger posed by al Qaeda diminished. However, the surge’s expenses surpassed its benefits. More than 1,500 US military personnel were killed and over 15,000 were injured between 2009 and 2012, resulting in more American deaths than the remainder of the 20-year conflict. At the height of the surge, the US was spending around $110 billion per year in Afghanistan, which was about half of what the US government spent on education each year.
Obama eventually began to believe that the war effort was unsustainable. Between 2010 and 2014, Obama made a series of pronouncements outlining a plan to reduce US military personnel to zero (save for a small diplomatic presence) by the end of 2016. Over 350,000 Afghan troops and police officers had been trained, equipped, and deployed by 2013. Their effectiveness was uneven, with corruption and “insider assaults” on American and partner advisers marring their efforts. To defeat the Taliban in war, several forces relied on US trainers and air support.
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Only 9,800 American forces remained in Afghanistan by 2015. As the retreat progressed, they concentrated on counterterrorism as well as advising and training Afghans. That October, the Taliban launched a series of well-coordinated offensives that proved to be one of the war’s most pivotal moments. 500 Taliban insurgents routed 3,000 Afghan military and police in the province of Kunduz, capturing the provincial capital for the first time. Around 1,800 Taliban fighters fought 4,500 Afghan military and police in Helmand Province, reclaiming nearly all of the terrain the organization had lost during the surge.
In battle after battle, numerically superior and well-supplied sol-diers and police in intact defensive positions collectively decided to call it a day rather than fight the Taliban one more time. Those who did continue to fight frequently paid a high price for their bravery: in 2015 and 2016, over 14,000 Afghan military and police were murdered. By 2016, the Afghan government, now led by Ashraf Ghani, had tried to make significant progress but failed and were weaker than they’ve ever been.
Since 2001, the Taliban have controlled more ground than at any other period. Obama halted the drawdown in July of that year. The battle was still raging when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. He first approved a 14-thousand-strong expansion in the US military in Afghanistan. Trump, on the other hand, despised the war and, in search of a way out, began talks with the Taliban in 2018.
Those negotiations were successful, and the US signed a deal in Doha 2020 to withdraw its forces.
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Taliban fought with the Afghan government and eventually captured Kabul in August 2021. Meanwhile, US forces withdrew from Afghanistan hastily putting many lives at risk. The Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani fled the country with briefcases full of money. Afghanistan is ruled by the Taliban. The common Afghans are suffering as the US has frozen the foreign reserve of the country.
Meanwhile, the Taliban are bent to install their version of Shariah on the people despite their false claims of changed Taliban. It has banned girls from school, stopped women from leaving the house without a family male head.
The fate of Afghanistan is now lingering on the international humanitarian support as people are trying to survive.
*From Carter Malkasian book ” The American war in Afghanistan” + additional Input by team GDI