Taliban fighters entered Kabul on Sunday and sought the unconditional surrender of the central government, officials said, as Afghans and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment called the War on Terror.
In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Qatar’s Al-Jazeera news channel that “the insurgents are seeking an unconditional surrender by the central government.”
The rapid collapse of the pro-western government follows Joe Biden’s decision in May to pull out US troops. The speed of the Taliban’s advance, however, and the utter capitulation of the Afghan military appear to have taken Washington by surprise.
The likely imminent fall of Kabul amounts to a disastrous moment for western policy, two decades in the making. An international coalition led by Washington and London triumphantly pushed out the Taliban in December 2001, seemingly consigning their caliphate to history.
War on Terror
In 2001, the Taliban controlled 90% of Afghanistan, and enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia or Islamic law. It was the de facto government of Afghanistan.
The United States invasion of Afghanistan occurred after the September 11 attacks in late 2001 and officially begun the War on Terror. Its military objective was to dismantle al-Qaeda, and deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power.
The targets of the campaign were primarily Islamist groups located throughout the world, with the most prominent groups being Al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State. But the campaign itself used a metaphor of war that refers to a variety of actions that do not constitute a specific war as traditionally defined. U.S. president George W. Bush first used the term "war on terror" in a formal speech to Congress and said, "Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them."
The term originally focused on countries associated with al-Qaeda but was highly criticized by military scholars such as Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who interpreted the broad scope as “sweeping nationalist imperialism.” U.S. President Barack Obama announced on 23 May 2013 that the Global War on Terror was over, saying the military and intelligence agencies will not wage war against an ideology, but will instead focus on specific groups or networks determined to destroy the U.S.
God is Great
The Taliban chanted "Allah akbar" or 'God is Great' as they entered and retook their nation this morning. But according to the Costs of War project at Brown University, as of April 2021, the war has killed 174,000 people in Afghanistan; 47,245 Afghan civilians, 69,000 Afghan military and police, and at least 51,000 opposition fighters.
As U.S. military forces withdraw from Afghanistan, they leave behind not only a raging conflict and an uncertain future for the country. They leave a legacy of impunity that threatens to undermine hopes for peace and justice in Afghanistan for years to come.
The Islamic Emirate released a statement this morning of reassurance. “We will, as always, protect the life, property and honor of the Afghan people and create a peaceful and secure environment for our beloved nation.”
The official statement was eerily on par with U.S. President George W. Bush's address to Congress in 2001. "We will, as always, protect the life, property, and honor of the American people," he said, "and advance our beloved democracy in developing nations."