Column: Afghanistan, Taliban and the relations with the U.S.


Cullen H. Davis, Staff Columnist

The relationship between the United States and the Afghanistan Taliban has proven to be one of the “worst failures of United States foreign policy.” Twenty years, four presidents, trillions spent, and thousands of service members killed are the effects of this “forever war” America has been involved in. Now with President Biden in office, it seems the plug has been pulled to remove us from a war we should have exited years ago.
The Taliban is a Deobandi Islamist religious-political movement and military organization in Afghanistan, regarded by many governments and organizations as terrorists. In 1993, Afghanistan engaged in a Civil War, and in 1994, the Taliban began garnering attention as the citizens were tired of being in a lawless state. The Taliban would ride around districts using intimidation and aggression to gain power and grow supporters. Those scare tactics ultimately led to the group seizing the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, in 1996. With the capital being under their control, the Taliban declared Afghanistan an Islamic Emirate and imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law for all of its citizens.
In 2001, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S soil. Bin Laden found refuge in Afghanistan with the Taliban after the attacks. Soon after, former President George W. Bush pushed for the military to invade the Taliban in Afghanistan after they refused to hand over Bin Laden, wanting proof he orchestrated the attacks. With this invasion and the high skills of the U.S military, the invasion proved successful and pushed many Taliban militants out of the area. Hamid Karzai became the new Afghan President and organized a new government with a new constitution.
However, a new generation of Taliban supporters has arisen through the years, making them harder and more challenging to face. In the present day, the strength of the new generation plus the knowledge of region and terrain from the old generation has made it almost impossible for the United States, the Afghan government, and allies to battle against. Now, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has created dominance in the country and imposed his views and stances. Akhundzada has claimed the views of the Taliban are to rule Afghanistan and adhere to their interpretation of Afghan law. He wants a clear government and judicial system guided by the Quran and Sharia.
The Taliban has control of the entire Afghanistan districts, and half of the others are under a strong Taliban presence. Additionally, they also have a strong presence on the major highways, and in Afghanistan, “to control the highway, is to control the country. Wherever you go, you will have to deal with the Taliban,” an anonymous Afghan journalist stated. In the recent combat, there have been casualties of 3,500 international soldiers, 40,000 civilians, 64,000 military and police. Added to this are the trillion dollars America has expended in efforts of war and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has 85,000 full-time fighters. Leader Akhundzada controls the economy, health, and education departments of the many controlled districts in the country, creating a parallel state where they even run their courts. This control has made the Taliban rich, close to $1.5 billion per year. The Taliban has been building and waiting, and with the decision of former President Trump and current President Biden, it seems the waiting was worth it.
The decision to withdraw U.S troops was important because the American military was the glue keeping things together for the past 20 years, and if they were able to grow to this point, what will they do when we are officially gone? President Biden blames the Afghan military, “lack of will to fight for their future… gave every chance to determine their own future.” On the other side of the Atlantic, the Afghan government blames President Ashraf Ghani for the collapse after fleeing the country without warning. President Ghani made things worse by failing to negotiate a peaceful transition of power to the Taliban when they seized Kabul on Aug. 15.
The citizens of Afghanistan are the ones who truly have no one to call on or trust. Their leader has bailed on them, and their only ally has withdrawn troops. An anonymous Afghan woman stated, “Everyone is looking for a way out … No real thoughts or expectations for Afghanistan citizens. I want Americans to know that our life is in danger.”
Many are frustrated with how Biden is leaving Afghanistan, even fellow Democrats. There appears to be a clear lack of planning as thousands of Americans and Afghans who want to leave the country will remain behind.
Democrat Rep. Sen. Seth Moulton said, “Biden made an excuse that does not hold water, ‘that many don’t want to come’ yet there is a backlog of visas, thousands at gates and the viral videos of the citizens trying to leave.” Moulton continued with, “To say this is going fine would be a lie” and called for the National Security Advisor to be fired. Representatives of the Taliban and commanders of the U.S military have been meeting, but the U.S has no real leverage or bargaining since the Taliban seized the capital.
Brett Bruen, former White House Global Engagement Director, was quoted saying, “All the work former presidents and administrations put in Afghanistan has been undone and in the worst spot.”
Individuals seem to understand why Biden pulled troops out of Afghanistan. For years, military families and citizens have insisted on “bringing our troops home,” and that has taken immense strides over the past few months. Now that the final troops are expected to exit by Aug. 31 and bring an end to this “forever war,” the Taliban has taken this as their time to strike. The Afghan military has already waved the white flag and relinquished it at the mercy of Taliban militants. No one knows what is to be expected or the broader impact of the decision Biden made, but the whole world and allies noticed how America handled this situation