• EB - Human Rights Society

America's Longest Twenty-Year War Comes to an End: US Withdrawal from Afghanistan


The inevitable war and Human Rights disaster that the world predicted following the United States-Taliban peace agreement in 2020 has catastrophically resulted in the Taliban's creation of a Terror State, which may be viewed as a direct result of the US's withdrawal from Graveyard of Empires, i.e. Afghanistan. While the Taliban has made vague promises to ensure the protection of Human Rights in Afghanistan to obtain international support for their administration, its real policies are inclined to follow the strictest interpretation of Sharia Law, just as they did in their previous regime. This has been demonstrated by multiple stories of Government officials being killed or tortured, as well as the law's draconian limitations on women; this horrible condition is a result of the United States' participation in Afghanistan, which it is constantly attempting to deny.

Keywords: Taliban, Imperialism, Sharia Law, Afghanistan, Human Rights Violation

The Taliban's recent takeover of Afghanistan, nearly two decades after the US-led military alliance defeated them in 2001, has sent shockwaves worldwide. Millions of Afghans are on the verge of a life blighted by Human Rights violations and torture at the hands of the Taliban. To fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, it is necessary to trace the role of the west's imperial and neocolonial campaign in Afghanistan, led by the United States. Thus, while one might sympathise with the Taliban, one must consider the United States' long history in Afghanistan and its active role in the current chaos.

The United States' engagement in Afghanistan commenced from the Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union. After the 1979 Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the anti-Soviet Mujahideen received significant financial and military backing from America. As a result, these militias were involved in a ten-year military confrontation with Soviet forces. Finally, due to mounting internal and international pressure, the Soviet troops were forced to depart in 1990. Following this, a civil war broke out between the various Mujahideen factions, culminating in the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in 1996.

The United States' response to the Taliban was a military invasion in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. They intended to overthrow the Taliban, destroy Al-Qaeda, and 'liberate' the Afghan people. Instead, however, the entire world community will now be able to observe the results of the United States' 20-year engagement in Afghanistan.

Despite assertions by the US that it is ending the Taliban authority, fostering democracy, and establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan, on the contrary, the Taliban has recently become all-powerful. The Taliban's ability to maintain terrain in Afghanistan results from the United States' faulty imperial strategy and military deployment. There was never any genuine, palpable, or fruitful focus on peace or Afghanistan's civilian lives and communities. Like Vietnam and Iraq, the American operation in Afghanistan was always about 'American interests' and its much bigger foreign policy ambitions. Moreover, while the United States likely sparked the Afghan conflict, the Taliban was not a staunch supporter of Afghan rights. During their leadership in the 1990s, punishments were carried out according to the harshest interpretation of Sharia law, including public executions and amputations of convicted adulterers, murderers and thieves.


The world, which is now appalled and has compared the collapse of Kabul to the fall of Saigon, must remember the 'peace agreements' that the US made with the Taliban in 2020. Neither the Taliban nor the United States has played out a sudden or cruel joke in Afghanistan. The Taliban's arrival in Afghanistan was a well-planned and well-executed scheme to which the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was not even a party. When memories of the Taliban's horrors are constantly recalled, it is important to remember that the United States has promised to lift global and American sanctions against Taliban members, which they failed to. Instead, Lead Republican of Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul-led committee of Republicans, in a letter to US Treasury Secretary, urged her to continue the US sanctions against the Taliban to ensure their national security, security of their citizens and partners are protected. The entire peace agreement negotiated in Qatar was designed to ensure that the United States and its allies could exit a conflict that had gone on for decades. Despite Taliban assurances, the responsibility for the looming danger of Human Rights abuses and Afghanistan's spiral into instability lies on the shoulders of the United States.

The President of the United States finally confirmed the real goal of the US invasion of Afghanistan on August 16, 2021. He made it clear that the United States' mission in Afghanistan was never about nation-building but rather neutralising terror threats posed by Al- Qaeda in the aftermath of 9/11. After decades of exploiting Afghans as puppets by making them experience heart-wrenching poverty, death and suffering in the game of power, first against the Soviets and later against monsters of its own creating (the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and so on), the US President has entrusted the reconstruction of Afghanistan solely to Afghans. These remarks by the US President should remind us of the stated goals of the US-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan illegally. On April 17, 2002, the promise made by then-US President George W. Bush to "create an Afghanistan free of this evil and a better place to live" has proven to be an empty rhetoric. "Afghans have seized the opportunity provided by the United States and its international partners to lay the foundation for democratic institutions and provide a framework for national elections," said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, at the inauguration of the Afghan constitution in 2004. The US and its allies' boldness in absolving themselves of all duties for Afghans is a cruel joke.


Since the Taliban's return, no opportunity has been missed to portray the last two decades as a paradise for Afghans. Reports exposing widespread corruption and human rights violations have been brushed under the rug. According to a United Nations report, Afghan security officers ripped detainees' toenails out and twisted their genitals. The well-publicised Canadian Afghan detainee torture incident also reveals the truth about the United States and its allies' continued operations in Afghanistan. Women and children have become the face of the terror that the Taliban will unleash on Afghans. The situation was no better for them under US-backed administrations. At that time, the Karzai Government passed the contentious Shia Family Law that stripped the Shia women in marital relations of a majority of their privileges than they could initially enjoy. In addition, Article 132 of the Afghan Law made spousal rape legal. Honor killings, domestic abuse, and other forms of violence continue to be perpetrated against Afghan women today. It is worth noting that according to the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSF), the Afghan Government was responsible for 46% of the attacks on journalists in Afghanistan in 2017. Afghanistan ranked 165th out of 180 nations on the corruption index in 2020, indicating a poor governance condition. The significance of these facts and figures stems from the billions of dollars spent on 20 years of war and thousands of lives lost establishing a stable and democratic Afghan state. The way Afghan President Ashraf Ghani abandoned his country, portrayed as a rising emblem of the United States' ability to promote democracy, speaks for itself.


With the Taliban controlling all Afghan territory except the Panjshir district in the north, the current situation is concerning. Following the February 2020 US-Taliban peace agreement, the Taliban has actively targeted civilians, particularly women in important positions of power such as judges, journalists, and peace campaigners, to ring bells of the horrific past wherein the Taliban's growing violence violated Human Rights. Despite this, the Taliban has attempted to change world perceptions by promising to respect human rights. In a briefing in Kabul, its spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, made vague assurances of respecting Human Rights. However, the world has been appropriately skeptical due to the less than reassured policies of the Taliban.

Now that the last US forces have been airlifted out of Kabul, what is left is an even more powerful Taliban, with the future of Afghans cherry dropped to them by decades of self-serving imperial and colonial actions by the United States. Theatrics of American hegemony is once again on display in Afghanistan's mountains. These plays have been seen before in Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, and other places. This time, the only difference is that it might be for one last time when the curtain falls. For the location has changed; this time, it is the 'Graveyard of Empires.'

This piece has been authored by Kashish Ali.

Kashish Ali is a third-year B.A. L.L.B. (Hons.) student at the Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi.

Image Source: https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/bigideas/5000-troops-for-5-years-a-no-drama-approach-to-afghanistan-for-the-next-us-president/

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