• Current Events
Garrett McKenzie

Garrett McKenzie '24 gives a history of the United States's presence in Afghanistan as well as informing readers about America's recent withdrawal. 

On August 15, President Joe Biden announced that he was withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, marking the end of a nearly 20-year war that saw the deaths of almost 2,000 U.S. soldiers. The war began as a direct result of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the fact that al Qaeda (the terrorist group responsible) and their leader Osama bin Laden were based in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the militant group in charge, the Taliban, had close ties to al Qaeda. So began a campaign to strike back at the organization, and to prevent any further attacks from being carried out from Afghanistan. Almost immediately, the Taliban regime was overthrown, and the U.S. and its NATO allies began working on stabilizing the country. However, the Taliban began to re-emerge by 2006, and over the following decade and a half would see a return to full control of the war-torn country.

After the city of Kabul fell to the Taliban in August of 2021, President Biden announced he was beginning the evacuation of U.S. troops and allies. Over the next two weeks, the government airlifted over 120,000 people out of Afghanistan, primarily from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Meanwhile, the issue of ending military involvement was hotly debated: many applauded Biden ending the prolonged conflict, while others stated that it was not the correct thing to do. However, there was a common consensus that the actual evacuation was highly disorganized. Many allies who had helped the U.S. during the war, and who wanted to leave were left behind, their lives now in mortal danger from the Taliban. Furthermore, refugees struggled to find seats in planes, and many simply tried to hold on to aircraft as they were taking off. This chaos came to a head on Thursday, August 26, when two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the airport, killing an estimated 170 people, including 13 U.S. troops (AP, New York Times). Following the attack, a reprisal drone strike was launched, killing an extremist group planner, according to the government. The evacuation continued though, and finally, on August 30, the U.S. concluded its airlift operation, with Biden announcing: “Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan — the longest war in American history” (The White House). Still, though, the future is uncertain for many, and fear runs as high as the Taliban now have total control over Afghanistan. Some have stated the U.S. involvement hasn’t helped, and things are just the same as when the military force invaded. No matter one’s personal opinion though, this situation is a very dynamic one that will undoubtedly continue to change in various ways, so make sure to follow the news closely to stay up to date as this develops.

For further reading, check out these articles by Brookings, CNN, NPR, and AP.

AP: https://apnews.com/article/europe-france-evacuations-kabul-9e457201e5bbe75a4eb1901fedeee7a1

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/27/us/politics/marines-kabul-airport-attack.html

The White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/08/31/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-end-of-the-war-in-afghanistan/

Brookings: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/09/02/the-war-in-afghanistan-has-shaped-an-entire-generation-in-the-west/

CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/30/politics/us-military-withdraws-afghanistan/index.html

NPR: https://www.npr.org/2021/08/19/1028472005/afghanistan-conflict-timeline