In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, a US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan with the intention of capturing Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and destroying the terrorist group. Along the way allied forces had to remove the Taliban (the ruling party of Afghanistan) from power, for the Taliban were effectively shielding Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Within a month of the beginning of the war (7th October 2001) the Taliban had been virtually removed from power, as US forces encouraged and aided resistance fighters from the Northern Alliance.
From that moment, the Taliban became insurgents, fighting a campaign to retake Afghanistan. They made regular use of terrorist attacks and for nearly two decades they have fought against both US and allied forces and the Afghan government. Efforts to secure Afghanistan against the Taliban were varied and lengthy, but almost immediately after US troops were recalled, the Taliban swept back into power.
Two decades of slaughter and blood has seen the Afghan people placed back under the thumbs of a cruel and evil regime.
When the US first invaded Afghanistan I thought that removing a regime like the Taliban was the right thing to do. In some ways I still feel groups like them should be opposed. The Taliban will clamp down on the rights of women, they will hunt members of the LGBT community and they will employ horrific methods of punishment against anyone who does not acquiesce to their system.
The question is whether a war to remove them means anything now. Was it a mistake, driven not by a desire for justice but rather fuelled by revenge for 9/11? Did we witness (not for the first time) what happens when change is forced from without rather than growing organically from within?
Another question arises. Who is to blame? President Biden completed the withdrawal of troops but he was honouring a deal that Donald Trump struck with the Taliban. It was Trump who trusted the Taliban and it was another Republican who started the war in Afghanistan in the first place (George W Bush). The lack of an exit strategy and any sort of plan meant Bush passed a huge mess onto Obama, and the repercussions of Bush’s misadventures have continued to be felt in the region, and beyond.
As for the Taliban, if anyone who is sympathetic to them reads this, ask yourself why so many Afghans are desperately trying to flee their country and escape the Taliban. They know what’s coming. They faced the brutality and savagery of the Taliban once before. They remember how the Taliban ruined their country. That so many people want to escape should be a message in itself to the Taliban.