The Afghanistan Occupation Ends After 20 Years

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Once the U.S. began removing troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban took the opportunity to take over. Taliban military vehicles were seen in the streets and a Taliban flag was raised above the presidential palace.

Twenty years after the United States started the War in Afghanistan, they symbolically pulled all troops out of the country. A plane with 200 foreigners, including Americans departed on Sep. 9, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 led by terrorist group al-Qaeda, who at the time, used Afghanistan as its base.

History and Social Studies Department Chair, Jon Peterson said, “My wife’s older brother, he is in the army. He’s a careerist in the army, and he actually received the Purple Heart in 2013. There was an IED explosion in his convoy. […] I texted him when Kabul fell last month, and he was kind of resigned to it but he felt like at some point, the United States had to leave, and the Afghans hadn’t done enough to make things better. And so, he felt like this was probably going to happen.”

U.S. conflict in Afghanistan started Oct. 7, 2001, when the Taliban government refused to give the U.S. Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, following 9/11. The President at the time, George W. Bush gave the Taliban a deadline to hand over bin Laden, and when they missed the deadline, the U.S. bombed Afghanistan and sent special forces. Osama bin Laden then bought his way into Pakistan to hide until U.S. forces killed him in Pakistan in 2011. Once the U.S. was in Afghanistan and saw the Taliban’s rule, they realized that they needed to do more and the mission grew.

Specifically, the lives of women and girls needed to improve. The Taliban violently oppressed women and girls by enforcing strict dress codes, denying health care, and banning women from attending school between 1996 and 2001. Junior Maya Sachs, said, “I’m really scared for a lot of the women and LGBTQ plus people in Afghanistan and it seems like it’ll be really hard to support them without continuing our infrastructure there that came along with the military.”

Along with supporting women, the U.S. provided other forms of aid and modernization to the country. Peterson said, “If I were a veteran of the war, I would tell myself that it was worth it for those two things. We’re giving women and girls a chance at a better life, even if it doesn’t endure. And then the other thing that it would be for is the stability that it creates; the intermediate stability that is at least not being attacked in the United States.”

Even though we are done with Afghanistan, Afghanistan is not done with us.”

— Jon Peterson

Though the U.S. has removed all troops from Afghanistan, the violence in Afghanistan has not diminished. The Taliban took control of the country in August and indicated the beginning of their administration by raising their flag on Sep. 12 over the presidential palace.
Sachs said, “If it was a perfect world, America would be able to keep human rights in Afghanistan by maybe making treaties with the Taliban, so that all people are respected there, and there’s not like a lot of violence against women as punishment.”

It is unclear how the seeds that the U.S. forces planted to benefit women and children will last in the long-term. Recently, the Taliban have announced that they will not stop women from attending school or working, but have restricted them to segregated schools with strict dress codes.

Peterson said, “One thing that I wonder about is China. They’re the next big rising empire in the world. Are they going to take a turn in Afghanistan, because they’re worried about the Uighur population in western China. The majority of Muslim area in the West may be inspired by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
The U.S. has removed their troops from Afghanistan, the influence they left through their work to help women and children remains. Peterson said, “Even though we are done with Afghanistan, Afghanistan is not done with us.”

Even though the Afghanistan war concluded, the violence in Afghanistan has not.