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What is the Future of Afghanistan?

Army paratroopers secure a landing zone for a helicopter in Kandahar, Afghanistan on July 20, 2019. (U.S. Department of Defense Photo by Army Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

Last updated on September 3, 2021

On August 30, the last United States aircraft left Afghanistan. By ending a complex 20-year period of American occupation, the withdrawal of the United States marks the beginning of a new era for Afghanistan: one filled with uncertainty. 

Withdrawal of American forces completely lacked logistical reasoning or any sort of support for the Kabul government. Consequently, Biden’s approval ratings plummeted.

While it is too late to fix the major flaws of Biden’s withdrawal, we can still look to what can be done in the present. With the recent absence of the United States, the Afghan government has collapsed, and the Taliban has retaken power. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid proclaimed, “This victory belongs to us all.” Mujahid’s words do nothing to reflect the chaos that the country will face under Taliban rule.

Before the Taliban’s prior period of rule ended two decades ago, the Afghan people frequently faced violent treatment. The group’s extreme interpretation of Sharia Law led to brutality towards religious minorities, women, journalists, and members of the LGBTQ+ community within Afghanistan. To say the Taliban will significantly change its ways would be unrealistically optimistic. The Taliban is being cautious to maintain power and avoid uprisings or protests; however, this does not mean that they will not eventually push their agenda. Any assurance of peaceful leadership by the Taliban should be disregarded, especially as the Taliban has proven itself to be untrustworthy in its violations of the Doha agreement. Already, soldiers are being executed, civilians are being attacked, and Afghan women are facing sexual violence. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes, suffering from beatings and malnutrition. 

Benjamin Petrini, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, notes, “…in the big cities there’s going to be a dramatic change in the short-term. It’s undeniable that there’s going to be a reverse in human rights standards, in women’s rights, women’s access to labor.” Afghanistan is additionally primed for hunger, healthcare, and economic crises under this new political structure.

While it no longer has a physical presence there, the U.S. still has some power over the future of Afghanistan. So, what can Biden do? First, the president needs to assist Afghan civilians that are escaping the violence of the Taliban. He must make regular efforts to keep terrorist groups within Afghanistan off balance, as the Taliban is still connected to Al-Qaeda. Though attacks against the U.S. are unlikely as the risk of attacking the States is perceived to be too high, local attacks are very much a possibility. This urges the serious monitoring of Afghanistan, especially with the recent removal of American influence within the country.

Finally, the U.S. should push for women’s rights: this includes access to jobs, education, and healthcare. This can be done using the financial leverage the U.S. has over Afghanistan: it funds the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and civilian administration in Afghanistan.

We have undeniably failed the Afghan people with the American withdrawal. As the Taliban retakes the country, the United States must provide humanitarian support, take measures to counter terrorism, and advocate for the preservation of rights.

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