Almost 20 years have passed since Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, and President George W. Bush announced that the United States would invade Afghanistan as the first act of a global war on terrorism. Now the United States is wondering how to define its relationship with the same Islamist leaders it overthrew in 2001 – again a matter of revenge or acceptance – and how to try to prevent the resurgence of any international terrorist threat. from Afghanistan.
Now there are smaller prospects of airstrikes in the Afghan countryside that leave anonymous, faceless deaths as data points in a colorful bar graph of a barely read United Nations report. No hastily buried roadside bombs in the dead of night that could strike a government vehicle or a minibus full of families.
Instead, there is widespread concern about the true form of the Taliban regime when Americans are truly gone. And there is the fear that the chaotic rush of government collapse during the Taliban’s advance will leave an irreparable economy, ruin and hunger.
The US conflict in Afghanistan was a long war with a quick end, or so it seemed. But the fate of the withdrawal was fixed more than 18 months ago, when the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw from the country by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban agreed to cease attack the Americans; end the massive attacks on Afghans in cities; and prevent Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from finding refuge in the country.
Taliban influence, gained after years of fighting against the world’s most advanced army, multiplied as they captured more distant outposts and checkpoints, then villages and districts. rural areas, then the roads between them. Earlier this year, the Taliban had positioned itself near several key cities, as the newly inaugurated Biden administration debated whether to honor the deal made under President Donald J. Trump to leave.
By the time President Biden and NATO announced in April the withdrawal of US and coalition forces by September 11, the Taliban was already taking district after district. Afghan security forces surrendered or were shot down en masse. Soon, provincial capitals were also under siege, despite US air power and an Afghan army which Biden and other senior officials said numbered nearly 300,000. But in the past few days, Afghan security forces have only totaled about a sixth of that, according to US officials.