One must look at Afghanistan and the Taliban’s history of conflict to truly understand what has happened and what is to come.
Afghanistan has controlled the news for the past month due to the seemingly sudden Taliban takeover. However, Afghanistan has a history of violent conflict over leadership that goes far deeper than this current event. This history plays an important role in understanding the reasoning behind certain events happening now.
Soviet Conflict: 1973-1988
Mohammed Daoud Khan abolishes the Afghan monarchy in 1973, and establishes the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Five years later Khan is killed by the Afghan Communist Party. The succeeding government leaders’ rivalry causes fighting within the government. The USSR invades Afghanistan in Dec. 1979 to try to support the failing communist government.
Conservative Islamic leaders bring their groups together to become the Mujahideen, or holy warriors, and they battle the Soviet army. Over four million Afghans flee to Pakistan or Iran, and one million Afghan citizens are killed. The U.S, Britain and China provide aid to the Mujahideen.
Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Pakistan sign the Geneva Accords in April 1988, ending the war and forcing the Soviets to withdraw their forces. In September, Osama Bin Laden forms Al-Qaeda to continue their holy war against the Soviets and anyone who opposes Islam.
Civil War and Taliban Rule: 1990s-2001
After the war with the Soviets, the battle for government control continues for four years—leaving the city in rubble. In 1994, a portion of the Mujahideen breaks off to form the Taliban. The Taliban slowly take over and ultimately gain total control of Afghanistan by 1996 with the help of Bin Laden. They impose strict Islamic law, banning girls from education and carrying out punishments such as beatings and public execution.
Additionally, this means religious persecution for every other religion in the country. In 2001, the Taliban blow up two Buddhist statues that were over 1,400 years old. Meanwhile, foreign aid workers are imprisoned for spreading Christianity.
After the 9/11 attack, the Taliban shelter Bin Laden in Afghanistan. This results in airstrikes and bombings from the U.S. and British forces until December, when the Taliban surrender. The U.S. assists in choosing leaders to rebuild the Afghan government. N.A.T.O., an alliance between 28 European countries and two North American countries, plants soldiers in Afghanistan to help the new government.
Taliban Reemerge and U.S. Soldiers Occupy: 2006-present
In 2006, the Taliban make their reappearance with suicide attacks and raids against N.A.T.O. soldiers, taking over territory in Southern Afghanistan. The Obama administration orders an increase in U.S. troops with the aim of removal by 2011. On May 2, 2011 U.S. forces kill Bin Laden.
U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan and fight off Taliban and ISIS attacks. Obama leaves 5,500 soldiers in Afghanistan at the end of his presidency. The Trump administration keeps soldiers in Afghanistan and carries out peace talks, but they do not go through after a Taliban attack kills a U.S. soldier. Days before Biden is inaugurated, Trump announces a plan to cut troop numbers to 2,500 by January.
“[The United States has] wanted to get out of Afghanistan for a long time but no president wanted to be blamed for having lost Afghanistan in the same way we lost in Vietnam,” said retired APU Professor Dr. David Lambert who taught a class on Afghanistan.
In 2020 and early 2021, there were attacks on a maternity hospital, girls school and on multiple journalists working in Afghanistan. Biden announces a plan to remove all U.S. troops by Sep., 2021. In early July, U.S. forces leave Bagram Airfield, their home base. On August 15, the Taliban take control of the Afghan government after two weeks of fighting.
The days following are consumed by madness at the Kabul International Airport as thousands try to flee the country. On Aug. 26, two suicide bombings at the airport, claimed by ISIS-K, kill 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops. On Aug. 30, the final plane carrying U.S. soldiers left and officially ended America’s longest war.
What Happens Next?
The world is now watching to see what the Taliban’s next moves will be. Immediately following their takeover, the Taliban promised peace and to “honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law” according to AP News.
Lambert says that if we base our predictions off of the Taliban’s previous actions when they were in charge in the ‘90s, they are not to be trusted. However, he added that the Taliban have reason to form a positive public opinion, since many countries that were supporting the Afghan government cut off all funds when the Taliban took over. Lambert pointed out that they are working with government officials in Cabo instead of getting rid of them as well as directing troops against violence, which is a positive change.
Nevertheless, in September there were reports of girls being blocked from attending school and attacks on former Afghan military members. Many Afghan civilians are staying in their homes in fear of what will happen.
The Hill reports that Christians are hiding in their homes or escaping to the mountains for safety. India pledged to help Sikhs and Hindus escape the country.
The country now faces blackouts because the Taliban stopped paying foreign companies for electricity due to debts they inherited when they took over the government.
“The country could face a crisis come winter,” said Daud Noorzai, the former chief executive of Afghanistan’s power company.
We will have to find out in the coming months whether this leads the Taliban to war in search for money or to peace in hopes of making deals with other countries.