Tracking the Minimized United States Presence in Afghanistan

Shefali Joshi (she/her), Reporter

Over the past couple of weeks, Afghanistan has been making headlines around the world. As you have likely heard, United States troops were completely withdrawn from Afghanistan in August, and shortly after the Afghan government fell to Taliban rule. Through nearly twenty years of war, much has changed in Afghanistan since the United States first entered.


In February of 2020, a negotiation was made with the Taliban for the safe withdrawal of United States troops in exchange for 5,000 prisoners held by the Taliban. Since then, troops in Afghanistan have continued to reduce in number, though an estimated 100,000 people eligible for expedited US Visas were left behind in Kabul after the final evacuation flight departed on August 30—a day earlier than planned–thus bringing an end to the United States’ longest war.


Less than a day later, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, causing hundreds of people to flee to bordering countries or the Kabul International Airport as Taliban leaders took President Ghani’s place. The Taliban victory was followed by many chaotic days at the Kabul airport as people tried to flee the country.


The Beginning:

The United States had first invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the Taliban Regime had refused to turn in Al Qaeda leaders who had planned attacks from inside Afghanistan following the terrorizing events of 9/11. Later that December, the Taliban Regime fell, and Hamid Karzai was inaugurated. With the help of NATO, Afghanistan was able to put in place a more stable democracy (Afghan Interim Administration).


During this time, many rules placed by the Taliban were rescinded, bringing way for new culture, technologies, and education, even when the Taliban grew in threat. New schools, hospitals, and public facilities were built. Women were able to join the workforce and participate in government and politics, and girls were able to go to school for an education. Multiple independent media coverage sources emerged, along with freedom of music and clothes.


The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was also established by the Afghan Interim Administration for advancements in women’s rights and advancements. As of September, the Taliban Regime claimed the administration longer exists. Their focus was to ensure all women were treated equally and not discriminated against. The Afghan government still had some large problems to face, such as Taliban rebels and corruption. Yet, for the past two decades, Afghanistan had been functioning under a semblance of stability.


Afghanistan Now:

Since the Taliban was able to seize control, there has been much change in Afghani Culture. Cultural activities are still accepted, as long as they don’t go against Shaira Law and Islamic beliefs. Jeans or “Western” garb has been replaced with traditional dresses. Also, all radios are now playing somber patriotic music instead of the usual Hindi and Persian pop songs.


Women, who have had many basic rights taken away, are no longer allowed to participate in government and political affairs; the Taliban has appointed new, all-male, figures to lead the government. Women are being kept from going to work, and beaten if there are any signs of resistance.


Demonstrations and protests can not be held without permission from the government. All slogans, posters, and marches have to be approved by the Ministry of Justice before any demonstrations can be performed. However, there are still signs of resistance by the people, mostly in cities or urbanized areas of Afghanistan.


Laws in Afghanistan have harshened since the government fell on August 15. The fragile peace found by journalists and reporters over the last two decades is broken as they are harassed by the Taliban gunmen as they go door to door searching for Afghani Government and American loyalists.


Afghanistan has had a history of violence and warfare, unstable government and corruption for a long time now, starting with the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Their customs have changed drastically over the years, yet people still find ways to move on and to keep living their everyday life in an unstable environment. No one can predict what is to come. All we can do is watch and wait to see what happens next.