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What’s happening in Afghanistan?

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A foreign power leaving an occupied nation in ruins and on the precipice of chais and doom after it has had its fill. Aug 15. 

As India celebrated its Independence Day, Taliban militants retook Afghanistan’s capital, after two decades of being held at bay from Kabul by US troops.

Although Afghan security forces were well funded and well equipped, they did put up a little resistance as Taliban militants seized much of the country following the withdrawal of US troops beginning in early July.

Earlier, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, abandoning the presidential palace to Taliban fighters.

US officials admitted that they miscalculated the speed at which the Taliban were able to advance across the country, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying of Afghanistan’s national security forces: “The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country…and that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.”

The Taliban’s swift success has prompted questions over how the insurgent group was able to gain control so soon after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and, after almost 20 years of conflict in the US’ longest-running war, what the Taliban’s intentions are. 

Who are the Taliban?

Formed in 1994, the Taliban were made up of former Afghan resistance fighters, known collectively as Mujahedeen. They fought the invading Soviet forces in the 1980s.

They aimed to impose their interpretation of Islamic law on the country and remove any foreign influence.

They captured Kabul in 1996, and their Sunni Islamist organization applied strict rules in the place. Women had to wear head-to-toe coverings, weren’t allowed to study or work and were forbidden from travelling alone. TV, music and non-Islamic holidays were also banned.

That changed after 9/11, when 19 men hijacked four commercial planes in the US, crashing two into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon, and another, destined for Washington, into a field in Pennsylvania. More than 2,700 people were killed in the attacks.

The attack was orchestrated by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who operated from inside of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Less than a month after the attack, US and allied forces invaded Afghanistan, aiming to stop the Taliban from providing a safe spot to Al Qaeda and to stop Al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.

What was the deal between Trump and the Taliban?

In 2017, the Taliban issued an open letter to the newly elected US President Donald Trump, calling on him to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.

After years of negotiations, the Taliban and the Trump administration finally signed a peace deal in 2020. The US agreed to withdraw troops and release some 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban agreed to take steps to prevent any group or individual, including Al Qaeda, from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of the US or its allies.

But that didn’t bring about peace

Violence in Afghanistan grew to its highest levels in two decades. By June of this year, they contested or controlled an estimated 50% to 70% of Afghan territory outside of urban centres, according to a United Nations Security Council report.

The report warned that an emboldened Taliban posed a severe and expanding threat to the government of Afghanistan. The report argued that the Taliban leadership had no interest in the peace process and appeared to be focused on strengthening its military position to give it leverage in negotiations or, if necessary, in using armed force.

“The Taliban’s messaging remains uncompromising, and it shows no sign of reducing the level of violence in Afghanistan to facilitate peace negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan and other Afghan stakeholders,” the report said.

For now, we pray for people in Afghanistan and, we hope they stay strong until peace reigns supreme.

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