Op-Ed: The U.S. Has Failed Afghanistan

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The question ” What went wrong in Afghanistan? ” on a banner in men’s hand with blurred Afghan flag on the background. Purchased from BigStock.

From where we are protected underneath the flag of red, white, and blue, the country has televised the fall of democracy in Afghanistan as the Taliban, a terrorist group, successfully took over the country in August.

The final nail in the coffin was their seizure of Kabul, the nation’s capital, and the retreat of Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president.

Back in the early summer, President Joe Biden announced that the US and NATO troops were to begin to withdraw from Afghanistan as per the agreement set in motion by former President Trump. 

The foreign military forces had been stationed there since the 2001 invasion. Those deployed were tasked originally with hunting down the Taliban, al-Qaida, and their leaders when former President George Bush declared war on the country after the tragic events of September 11th.

Over the years, the US presence swelled to 100,000 troops deployed to assist with border protection, resurgent Taliban activity, and warring countries.

Instead of slowly withdrawing troops, Biden made the decision to pull all forces at once, despite warnings from several well-seasoned military generals. His decision would leave the people and military of Afghanistan not only unprepared but vulnerable. Almost immediately, the Taliban struck.

In the chaos, billions of dollars worth of American tanks, weapons, and aircrafts were left behind, handing more ammunition and power to the enemy forces. There is a video recording of these terrorists now walking around in American uniform as they tear down the democracy that their country built. It’s a disgrace, not only to the people who died wearing it but to America today.

For children, there are now gunmen in the streets they used to play in, and women have disappeared from the streets almost completely. It’s a picture from 20 years ago.”

— Grace Papas

Under the Taliban’s rule between 1996 and 2001, brutal floggings, amputations, and public executions were common. Women were largely confined to their homes and risked harsh punishment every time they did step outside. The death penalty was in place for offenses including female adultery, homosexuality, and the rejection of Islam. 

Along with their guns, the Taliban brought with them a promise that they have changed under a new leader and new times.

The militants have so far sought to present an image of themselves as more progressive, inclusive, and restrained than the group that terrorized communities two decades ago—claiming that they will not seek retribution against their political enemies and that women will play an important role in society and have access to education. 

The proposal of change is unlikely; in fact, it has already been debunked by the Taliban themselves as they begin to hunt down activists and translators and end protests with gunfire. They opened fire on young people demonstrating in the eastern city of Jalalabad and have responded violently to further protests in other parts of the country.

Footage shows Taliban gunmen attacking and beating down reporters and journalists in the streets and even going as far as to steal their equipment.

Despite the uproar, Biden has made it clear that he stands by his decision, offering a half-hearted remark that the withdrawal of troops would “always be hard and painful”. He has not since offered an indication that he fully comprehends the terror brewing in the streets of Afghanistan.

For the people of Afghanistan, the future is frighteningly dark. For children, there are now gunmen in the streets they used to play in, and women have disappeared from the streets almost completely. It’s a picture from 20 years ago.

Even stepping foot outside is dangerous for women, and a majority of them have hidden in their homes, because according to spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, “some of our forces have not yet been trained not to hurt them”.

Not only that, but many American allies are on the run, seeking refuge with the Taliban on their heels. Amnesty International has received reports of fighters going door to door with lists of names, despite their leaders’ promise that they would not go after Afghans that worked with the previous government.

The ordeals that await them are hard to grasp, especially for those of us safe underneath the American flag. But with the history of the new government in mind, my mind is not eased by the Taliban’s sugarcoated lies.