America’s longest battle is nearly over.
The war in Afghanistan, which began in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans and approximately 2,400 US soldiers, and has squandered trillions of dollars on what has generally been judged a disastrous nation-building endeavor.
Although the Taliban’s hardline regime collapsed within weeks of the US launching a fierce bombing campaign and inciting tribal uprisings, the conflict festered.
The first pictures of men cutting their beards and women reentering the labor were quickly replaced by suicide attacks, growing civilian losses, and the resurrection of a Taliban organization hell-bent on ejecting Western forces from Afghanistan.
What began as a mission to destroy Al-Qaeda training facilities in Afghanistan morphed into a full-scale battle against their Taliban hosts, sparking an insurgency that the US military’s massive firepower was unable to stop.
The assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan by US special forces in 2011 reignited debate about the purpose of the war and eventually resulted in a failed attempt to initiate talks with the Taliban.
President Donald Trump’s election signaled the end of America’s engagement in Afghanistan, culminating in a major departure agreement hammered out in February 2020 in Qatar between Washington and the Taliban’s leadership.
The final nail in the coffin came in April, when his successor, Joe Biden, announced the withdrawal of remaining US troops ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, forcing America’s NATO partners to follow suit.
However, the US withdrawal leaves Afghanistan with an unclear future, as an increasingly confident Taliban appears to be laying the groundwork for a military takeover and a new round of internecine civil war.