Image Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal
By: Chris Carey
For the past weeks and months, the Biden Administration’s announcement of the withdrawal of American troops and the subsequent rise of the Taliban to recognized political hegemony in Afghanistan have monopolized news cycles and released global shockwaves. Now, President Biden faces dropping approval ratings and a skeptical domestic public while the Taliban remains in charge of Afghanistan itself.
On April 13, 2021, the Washington Post reported that President Biden would withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that spurred the American invasion of the country. In the subsequent months, Biden and his administration worked to safely return American soldiers, Afghan allies, and U.S. citizens living in Afghanistan to the United States.
These efforts were complicated following a resurgence of the Taliban, an Islamic militant group committed to Sharia Law that rose to power in the late 1990s. In the early 2000s, American forces repelled the Taliban from Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city; however, through months of slow pushes toward Kabul, the Taliban once again reclaimed the seat of power on Sunday August 15.
Although the United States has extensively funded and trained Afghan defense forces, little resistance was put up against the surging Taliban. Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked, “the fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country … and that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.”
Following the removal of Afghan political leaders such as President Ashraf Ghani, who fled to the United Arab Emirates and later apologized, the Taliban set up a provisional government. That provisional government assured the Afghan people, through spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, that they are committed to an “open, inclusive Islamic government.”
The Taliban also made it abundantly clear that the remaining United States military and civilian presence in Afghanistan would be considered unwelcome beyond the Taliban’s newly mandated August 31, 2021 deadline. Additionally, the Taliban expressed that any further Afghan evacuations must stop. This diverged from the United States’ plan to evacuate any Afghan allies who wished for safe passage out of the country, an effort that would continue beyond the Taliban’s directive.