America’s Occupation of Afghanistan

American Troops Leave Afghanistan People Behind


American troops in Afghanistan have now left the millions of people helped by American occupation behind. Credit: “File:Flickr – DVIDSHUB – Marines work to build relationships with the Afghan people (Image 1 of 4).jpg” by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kate Stout, Editor In Chief

In 2001, the United States entered Afghanistan with one goal: find Osama Bin Laden.  Yet, only now, thousands of lives, trillions of dollars, and nearly twenty years, America is leaving.  

The United States’ complicated relationship with Afghanistan began on September 11th, 2001, when the Twin towers fell.  One of the greatest acts of terrorism in the world led to one of the greatest manhunts in the world and the search for Osama Bin Laden led US troops to Afghanistan, where he hid amongst the Taliban.  

Massive political and social pressure to act pushed the United States to drastic measures, and it refused to compromise with the Taliban.  Instead, the United States started dropping bombs over the entire country, waiting for Al Qaeda – the terrorist group ran by Osama Bin Laden – to reveal itself.  The decisions made by the United States during this time killed thousands of Afghanistan people, including innocent civilians. 

It was not until 2012 that Osama Bin Laden was killed, but the connection between Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan was severed long before that and the United States would occupy Afghanistan until long after.  

For many years, the United States focused on maintaining a delicate hold over the country and no major battles occurred.  During this time, the United States helped to claw back some independence for women and free thinkers too.  

Americans installed a democratic government and effective policing in Afghanistan, created healthcare infrastructure (such as maternity clinics), reduced government corruption, and increased quality of life by providing basic necessities.  

Generally, the Americans meant that the Afghanistan people were also freer to choose the role religion played in their lives, rather than living based on Taliban moral principles. 

 Prior to American occupation, the Afghanistan people had little autonomy over their own lives, which may be what they are returning to.  American influence of the Afghanistan people was very strong for many years, but as time went on, favor shifted back to the Taliban.  

“We were hugely overconfident in 2001, and we thought the Taliban had gone away and weren’t going to come back,” Afghanistan military advisor Carter Malkasian said. “We also wanted revenge, and so we made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t have made.” 

For years, presidents have continued to hand off and delay the retreat from Afghanistan, likely due to a fear of receiving the same backlash President Joe Biden is now facing.  Former President Barack Obama has been outspoken in discussing his grief for the Afghan people in the last few weeks but during his presidency, he took no major action to improve the situation. 

During the Trump administration the US caved and negotiations with the Taliban began, but the deal was not what many Americans may have hoped for.  New York Times writer Alissa J. Rubin who spent years reporting in Afghanistan weighed in.  

 “It was not even a peace deal.  It extracted a somewhat vague promise by the Taliban to prevent future attacks against the United States and its allies,” Rubin wrote.  

The deal guaranteed nothing for the rights of the Afghanistan people, so when the United States began pulling back troops, desperate people, terrified of what Taliban control would mean for them went to extremes to leave the country. 

Biden’s opposition to the Afghanistan war began when he was the vice president under Barack Obama, but his complaints were ignored, during the Obama administration the number of American troops in Afghanistan increased.  

When he was elected President, Biden made it clear that he was ready to make the tough decisions needed to move America into a better position. He started strong with his vaccination campaign, but he has faced a lot of opposition for his withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.  

The situation in Afghanistan is decidedly negative, both for Americans (who have let an entire country be taken over by the Taliban) and for the people of Afghanistan (who are now forced to live under the Taliban).  

The Afghanistan War was a clear strain on the United States, financially and psychologically, but there was no reason for the retreat to leave such a big mess behind. The reason was simple: the Afghanistan people were not ready to stand on their own.  

Prior to leaving, the United States had armed and trained an army of Afghanistan people to control the country and stop the Taliban from inserting themselves where they had not right to be. 

However, years of playing soldier did not prepare the Afghanistan army for the sudden responsibility of controlling Afghanistan, so they were immediately overwhelmed by the Taliban. Not only did this show the extent of the Taliban’s power but it also armed them with top of the line, incredibly expensive American military equipment. 

After twenty years of clinging on, the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan means a huge weight off the United States’ shoulders. Yet, it also means nearly two decades of time, resources, and lives spent occupying Afghanistan rendered meaningless.   For the people of Afghanistan, Taliban rule means a huge shift in government and culture.   

As Afghanistan begins to find its feet, people can hope to see what the country will be like and what the Taliban’s decisions will mean for the Afghanistan people and people all over the world.