Taliban Takeover

What has happened in the past that has led up to this

Recently, something very alarming has taken place: after 20 years, the freedom of Afghanistan has been overrun by the Taliban. We will take a look at everything that has taken place, from the past to now. How did we end up here? How could we have been so oblivious and let something as terrifying as this transpire? Let’s start from the beginning.

Who the Taliban are & How long they have been in power

The Taliban is an Islamic group that was formed in 1994. This force is made up of former

Afghan resistance fighters or in other words, “mujahedeen”, who had fought Soviet forces in the 80s. The supreme commander and senior cleric of this group is Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. Akhundzada became the Taliban’s leader in 2016, after their previous leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan on May 21, 2016. After the Taliban had taken control over Kabul in 1996, The Sunni were quick to enforce strict rules for the Afghans, especially for the women. Sunnis are by far one of the largest branches of Islam. Sunni Muslims believe in Allah and accept the Koran and teachings of the prophet, Muhammad.

Women were forced to wear coverings from head to toe, they were not allowed to receive an education or be able to work, and could never travel alone. Media like TV and music were also banned, as well as any holidays that were not Islamic.

Politics & The Taliban

Then, 9/11 happened. President Bush had demanded that the Taliban surrender and hand over Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden immediately. Of course, the Taliban refused to do so and the U.S. responded by invading the Taliban government along with their allies. It wasn’t long until their government was overthrown and the remaining left fled to Pakistan. Afghanistan had its freedom back. For the past two decades, the United States Military has given the Afghan military modern weapons and training to help protect and defend themselves from any threat from the Taliban if they were to ever surface again.

Meanwhile, in the countryside, the Taliban had been growing their numbers. Some of the fighters were manipulated to join, while some were more than happy to join the group. The group was wealthy, as they had found a rich recruiting vein among the Afghan diaspora in Pakistan. In the past six years since the attack, the Taliban had clearly been showing signs of strong growth which raised serious alarm. In 2010, President Obama had expanded the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan; another 100,000 troops were being located to go to Afghanistan. After a few years, the number of troops drawing back home became more and more, making it increasingly more eye-opening for the Taliban.

Fast forward to 2017, when the Taliban wrote a letter to President Trump, requesting to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The Trump administration then signed a peace deal three years later in 2020, stating that U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be withdrawn as well as set terms for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by May of 2021 and release the imprisoned 5,000 Taliban people. Violence in Afghanistan increased day by day. The Taliban grew their control and according to a United States Security Council report, by June 2021, 50-70% of Afghanistan territory was under control. According to CNN, the report had insisted that the Taliban had no interest in following the peace process and were more headstrong about improving and developing their military. "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. Now we are here, in less than two weeks the Taliban has regained its control over Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani has fled his own country, and now people have nothing else more to do than to ask questions and to point blame.

How did the Taliban take over so rapidly?

It is no lie to say that the way the Taliban took over so swiftly is terrifying, and it is even scarier to think that no one saw this coming. Senior officials apart from the Biden Administration had reason to believe that it should have taken months before the government in Kabul fell. United States lawmakers are demanding an explanation from the Biden Administration for answers on how the United States Intelligence could have possibly mishandled and misjudged the situation so horrendously. According to CNN, Texas Representative Micahel McCaul, the top Republican on the House

of Foreign Affairs Committee, came out with a statement describing this situation as an “unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, made a statement on August 20th saying, “The Biden Administration’s single-minded pursuit of quick withdrawal from Afghanistan ignored the clear warning signs of national security experts about the disastrous consequences that would follow.” He goes on to say, “The responsibility for this catastrophic decision rests with the commander-in-chief who made it.”

Who is at fault?

Politicians have been arguing over whether this was Trump’s fault or Biden’s. Was it Trump’s fault that he first made the deal with the Taliban, or was it Biden’s fault for following through with it? According to The Hill, Biden had reminded Americans that the United States pullout was originally commenced by the Trump Administration. Even this April, it was Trump that was commending Biden for following through with the withdrawal and had even insisted that troops come home even sooner than what was set on. Two weeks ago Biden came out with a speech, pinning blame on Trump, Afghans, and President Ashraf Ghani.

He said, “We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S.

military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people.” Biden goes on to say, “We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They failed to do any of that.” Biden even adds, “Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously, he was wrong.” Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, former Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and former National Security Advisor made a statement saying that the former president would not have made the decision to follow through with the withdrawal. “The difference between then and now is leadership,” they say. “The Biden Administration alone owns this failure,” the trio says. The White House on the other side, argues that the decisions made while Trump was in office, set the stage for what has occurred. They argue that setting the date for May 1st had allowed the Taliban to wait out the U.S. and along with that, Trump’s Camp David invite to the Taliban essentially made it set in stone.

Officials have come to the decision that both Biden and Trump need to take some responsibility for this chaotic mess. According to The Hill, Mark Esper, former United States Secretary of Defense, tweeted out, “Both Presidents Biden and Trump had the right goal in mind -- ending America’s Longstanding presence in Afghanistan. But both also failed to pursue that goal in the right way,” Esper says. “It was always a pipe dream,” Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster says on CNN. He believes that the takeover of Afghanistan was one in the making and both Trump and Biden are at fault. “I think that the Trump Administration doubled down on the mistakes of the Obama Administration after the president abandoned what had been, I think really the first reasoned and sustainable approach toward Afghanistan in 2017, and then the Biden Administration doubled down on the flaws of the Trump administration.”

Since the attack, Afghans have swarmed airports and invaded US military airplanes in hopes of escaping the Taliban. Videos have emerged over social media showing people at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul rushing to the tarmac and hanging from the stairs of the plane. According to Associated Press News, seven people have died at the Kabul airport including some who fell from the departing jet in the sky. This is the ongoing reality that this world and especially Afghans are facing; a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Story By: Hannah Trollope '22