By: Amy Lu
Afghanistan is a country that’s seen and been through no small amount of war; in 1838, Britain initiated the first of three British-Afghan Wars while attempting to take control of Afghanistan, ultimately resulting in British defeat as well as Afghanistan’s independence. The Soviet Union then “invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support a Communist-led coup“, but withdrew after 10 years of fighting, only for Afghanistan to then enter into civil war in 1992 between the mujahideen (guerrilla fighters in Islamic countries) leaders.
And because of the numerous times Afghanistan has fought for its power and persevered, the country had been dubbed the “graveyard of empires“, although the source of the name is unknown.
But despite all the violence and violence and suffering Afghanistan has been through, it had seemingly finally found peace on December 22, 2001 when Hamid Karzai was elected new leader of Afghanistan after the Taliban, an Islamic terrorist organization based in Afghanistan, completely surrendered on December 7, 2001. And for a few years, there was no more war, until 2006 when the Taliban reemerged and began seizing land and sparking more fighting.
And now, 20 years after the Taliban’s surrender, they’ve retaken control after invading the presidential palace in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. They’ve declared the fighting over but still, many remember the terrible suffering from the Taliban’s reign and are desperate to leave the country.
A Brief Intro to Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a landlocked country that can be found between Central and Southern Asia. And while it may not necessarily be positioned in the middle of Asia, because it is centred between China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean’s trade routes, it was also nicknamed the Heart of Asia, with the Urdu poet Allama Iqbal even saying “Asia is a body of water and earth, of which the Afghan nation is the heart. From its discord, the discord of Asia; and from its accord, the accord of Asia.”
The geography of Afghanistan consists mainly of mountains, deserts, and a few valleys. Most of the mountains come from the Hindu Kush range which is the Western extension of the Himalayas. These mountains often have violent earthquakes that can cause landslides and avalanches.
The capital city of Afghanistan is Kabul, which is in the north-eastern side of Afghanistan. Dari and Pashto are the two main languages of Afghanistan so bilingualism is quite common. Apart from Dari and Pashto, Uzbek, English, and Turkmen are also a few languages that can be heard throughout the different regions of Afghanistan.
Apart from the many languages, there are also four main ethnic groups. These are the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. But apart from these, there are as many as ten other ones that are found in Afghanistan.
Government Power Struggle
Up until the mind 1970s, Afghanistan, mainly Kabul was very peaceful and prosperous; women were able to attend school and post-secondary, there were many cinemas, bars, and live music events for the citizens to enjoy, but it was completely different for the people living in rural areas. Most of them followed strict traditional methods and practices and lived as nomads. In the 1970s, different political groups started emerging and there came two general groups: the Islamic and the Communists.
In 1978 the Communists took control of Afghanistan after killing the previous ruler, Mohammed Daoud Khan. The Communists took and/or killed anyone who had even the slightest indication of being Islamic. Then in 1979, the Islams armed themselves and formed a new group called the mujahideen.
Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev decided to give the Afghan Communists his aid as keeping them in power would benefit him as well. And in response, America lended their aid to the mujahideen.
In 1986, the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, decided to withdraw Soviet troops from Afghanistan. This brought great joy to many of Afghanistan’s citizens but they quickly learned that the mujahideen’s rule would not be so much more wonderful than the Communists’. The mujahideen were extremely religious, the utter opposite of the Communists, and the wouldn’t tolerate any talk going against God or allow any women to freely express themselves in any way.
Then in 1994, the Taliban emerged. The group was made up of orphans and children from refugee camps in Pakistan. They spoke words of hope and light, for the end of the war and the return of freedom. Many citizens supported them, perhaps because they were the only revolutionary group the people had seen since the mujahideen came into power, but it was support nonetheless.
In 1996, the Taliban took Kabul. People were overjoyed, but contrary to their words of freedom and happiness, one of the first things they did was publicly kill the former president, Mohammed Najibullah. The Taliban then banned all forms of entertainment, from television, to cinemas, to alcohol.
Women were forbidden from studying and working and would even be beaten for the slightest bit of skin showing in public, public executions were common, and once all these became the norm, the Taliban’s next step was attacking the U.S. On September 11, the Taliban flew into the twin towers that resulted in the devastation we all know as 9/11.
The leader of the Taliban at the time was Osama Bin Laden, and when the U.S. officially declared war on the “terrorists” called the Taliban, they also wanted to take down Bin Laden. But when the time came, he escaped although this also caused the organization of the Taliban to collapse and in 2001, they completely surrendered.
Return of the Taliban
But even with the Taliban out of power and the war over, life did not entirely go back to the way it was in the 1960s. Despite some American military remaining in Afghanistan to help the ease into their new life, warlords still ruled the economy and with that power they raised prices higher than even middle class could afford. Not everyone was satisfied with the new situation and so, sensing that discomfort, the Taliban regrouped, recruited new members, and prepared for their comeback.
Suicide bombings also became more common. Regular citizens could get a bomb and be paid to detonate it. These suicides could’ve been cause by depression, personal financial situation, almost anything. But again, despite this increase in violence, most international troops withdrew back to their home country in 2014. Along with these troops, aid organizations also left.
The Taliban continue fighting and seizing land, but in February 2020, the U.S. signed a peace agreement with the Taliban, announcing that all U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan within 14 months. Taking advantage of this, the Taliban stormed the presidential palace in Kabul August 15, 2021.
Citizens are not flooding the airports desperately trying leave despite the Taliban’s statements that this time they will allow women freedom. And the rush to the airports only backfires when two suicide bombings occurred on August 26, 2021, one of which ISIS-K took responsibility for. These killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops.
Canada has already started evacuating citizens out of Afghanistan. Other countries are also doing their best to help control the situation but it’s unknown what the Taliban’s true intentions are and what the next best course of action would be.