September 11, 2021, was the Biden administration’s deadline for removing all U.S. military personnel from Afghanistan. However, as the U.S. began pulling out of the country, the Taliban has taken over with shocking speed. Now, the Taliban have regained control of the Afghanistan government and the United States is speeding up its withdrawal.
Twenty years ago, the United States sent troops to Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power. The Taliban is a violent, fundamentalist Islamic group that is considered by many governments to be a terrorist organization. The U.S. supported the formation of a new, democratic Afghan government and trained Afghan military to maintain control of their country on their own. However, as the U.S. pulled back from Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly began taking over large portions of the country. First it claimed rural areas, then cities and smaller provincial capitals, and finally it took control of the capital city of Kabul on August 15, 2021.
When Kabul was taken by the Taliban, thousands of Afghans rushed to the single airport still controlled by the U.S. military. U.S. troops placed razor wire around the Kabul International Airport to hold back the growing crowds. Still the media captured images of desperate people crowding onto planes in hopes of escaping as the democratic government collapsed.
These events have led to widespread panic, chaos, and violence in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of people wait to be evacuated. Others are hiding in their homes, afraid to come out. Women and girls are especially vulnerable: the fundamentalist Taliban is likely to take away many of their rights and freedoms. Since August 14, 2021, over 70,000 people have been successfully evacuated from the area.
While the Trump administration began the process of bringing U.S. troops home, it was President Biden who set the September 11, 2021, deadline for full troop withdrawal. According to President Biden, twenty years is too long for the United States to be involved in the Afghanistan conflict. He said too many American lives have been lost as a result. Biden has pointed out that in the time the U.S. has occupied Afghanistan, four American presidents have been in office, and he refuses to pass the situation on to a fifth individual.
Critics, however, say that the withdrawal was too hasty and left the situation vulnerable to Taliban control. The Biden administration is under pressure from many political and humanitarian groups to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past the deadline. (China has accused the U.S. of abandoning Afghanistan and has offered to help rebuild the nation.)
There is an August 31, 2021, deadline to complete the evacuation of U.S. military and other personnel. Taliban spokespersons have said that extending U.S. occupation of Afghanistan beyond the end of August would violate agreements between the two sides. The Taliban has threatened that this could lead to increased violence. President Biden has publicly stated his goal to meet the August 31st deadline. The leaders of the G7 nations (the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom) have been in continuing discussions to determine what to do next in this changing situation. Great Britain and France have agreed to send in some of its own military troops to help aid in the evacuation process of its own personnel who were living in Afghanistan.