Writer: Harry Zhao
Editor: Renata Carlos Daou
Graphic Designer: Pat Sevikul, Heidi Wong
History of Conflict in Afghanistan
The US involvement in Afghanistan began shortly after the 9/11 incident in 2011, when al-Qaeda operatives led by Osama bin Laden hijacked and caused commercial airliners to crash into the World Trade Centre. This instigated US military attacks against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who allowed for al-Qaeda training camps to be installed in Afghanistan under their rule. However, the terrorists involved in the 9/11 incident were not Afghan nationals. The US held military bombing campaigns against Taliban forces in Afghanistan with British support with the aim of driving out the Taliban, but also resulting in thousands of Afghan civilian casualties and throwing the country into turmoil.
After 20 years of war, the US and Taliban signed a peace agreement in 2020, ensuring a ceasefire between the Taliban and US soldiers, but neglecting the safety of Afghans, who were continually killed and terrorised in the confrontation between the Taliban and Afghan army. The US spent $1000 billion in this conflict which caused countless Afghan civilian deaths and the displacement of 4 million Afghans. All the while, the US failed to fulfill the goal of eliminating the enemy, leaving Afghanistan in a state of chaos.
In the last month, the UN reports that 1000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in the past month, and a third of the casualties were children. Conflict continues to be reported in 32 out of the 34 Afghanistan provinces.
US Withdrawal from Afghanistan
On the 14th of April, 2021, President Biden decided to completely withdraw US military forces by 9/11, ending 20 years of war and intervention. The withdrawal was decided after prior discussions, and with little to no consideration of the well-being or protection of Afghans. The president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country with his family. Many people have withdrawn their savings from banks, leading to a lot of them closing down.
10,000 Afghans were crowded at the Kabul airport, in order to flee the country along with the US troops, embassy workers, foreign nationals and diplomats. One military plane took off while people were trying to latch onto the plane, and some were crushed to death or fell from midair.
Following the mass departure of US troops, the Taliban has taken over the Arg, the Presidential Palace, and they have complete control over the entire country. This leaves the country in a devastating humanitarian crisis and civilians will have to bear the consequences of two decades of conflict.
Afghani Refugees and Internally Displaced People
With the country descending into chaos and mass evacuation of Afghans, internally displaced people and refugees are put into danger. Both the US and the UK have schemes to accommodate Afghan refugees that supported their missions in Afghanistan, such as the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy in the UK. The UN is also urging neighbouring countries to open their borders and to accept Afghan asylum seekers so they can find safety.
There are currently around 3 million internally displaced people within Afghanistan, and the number continues to grow. In June alone, an additional 109,000 people were displaced. The US withdrawal has also caused a tremendous spike in internally displaced people. These people have been moving into urban cities such as Kabul to escape heavy areas of conflict, yet many of them are still sleeping in public spaces, being left vulnerable and unsheltered.
Implications of Taliban Rule
For many of the people living in Afghanistan, especially women and girls, a Taliban rulership would likely mean the loss of many hard-won equalities and liberties. Although members of the Taliban have stated that women will retain the right to work and education, many fear that the Taliban will renege on its promise, and that years of establishing women's rights would be for nothing.
The Taliban has been known to enforce a harsh interpretation of Sharia law, with a lot of restrictions on the opportunities and autonomy of women. In the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, this meant women having to be completely covered, not being allowed to work in professions outside of healthcare, not being allowed to leave their homes without a male companion, and not being allowed to appear on TV or photos.
The education available for women would also be restricted. Many females would be forcibly "married" to Taliban soldiers, some as young as 12-years-old. People who break these rules would be harshly punished by beatings, rape and abduction. The Taliban has already begun limiting women's mobility in Kabul University, where female students could only leave their dorms when accompanied by male relatives, and has suspended numerous female journalists indefinitely.
Ways to Help
We must continue to amplify the voices of Afghan women, internally displaced people and refugees, and carry on advocating and protesting for peace in Afghanistan, while also holding the perpetrators of the humanitarian crisis responsible. By spreading awareness about the situation and donating to organisations that provide aid to Afghanistan, we can help reduce the consequences and suffering that Afghan citizens would have to face. Such organisations include:
Islamic Relief USA (https://irusa.org/asia/afghanistan/)
UN Refugee Agency (https://donate.unhcr.org/int/en/afghanistan-situation)
Relief International (Afghanistan) (https://ri.org/countries/afghanistan/)
The Afghancare (donation: gf.me/u/xca5ky)
Mahboba's Promise (https://mahbobaspromise.org/)
Afghan Women's Organisation (https://afghanwomen.org/)