A little less than 20 years ago, the United States invaded Afghanistan, toppling the Taliban-led government and waging a war against terrorism. The decision came in the wake of the September 11 attacks and marked the beginning of what would go on to be called the US War on Terror. Despite the passage of time however, things remain much the same in 2021.
Decades after interjecting itself into Afghanistan's turbulent political landscape, and having spent more than a trillion dollars, the US began withdrawing its troops from the war torn nation earlier this year. And as the US retreated, the Taliban advanced, until it took over the reigns of administration yet again on August 15. While the Biden administration is now facing flak for the chaotic situation in the country, it is also an inherited topic that began during the tenure of George W Bush.
In 2020, President Donald Trump announced a plan to withdraw US and allied troops from Afghanistan. In February that year, he signed a peace deal with the Taliban that limited US military action against them and declared that "we think we'll be successful in the end". The agreement had called for the US to cut down its forces from 13,000 to to 8,600 in the first phase and for the remaining troops to exit by May 1. While Trump found himself vacating office partway through the period, his successor chose to go ahead with a few changes.
Soon after taking office as President, Biden sought a review of the timeline set by the Trump administration. Eventually, he announced a delay of four months, reportedly stating that all troops would leave before the US marked 20 years of the September 11 attack. Even as some frowned upon the correlation, Biden in July announced that the new deadline would be August 31.
With the final date drawing increasingly near, the US government has now been mulling over the possibility of an extension. But this might not be an option. While Biden government has thus far insisted it will complete evacuations by the end of this month, the Taliban is unwilling to entertain delays.
"There will be no extension for the ongoing evacuation," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters at a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday.
"We want them to evacuate their citizens, they have planes and the Kabul airport control is with them now, the US should withdraw all its troops, people or contractors before the deadline," he added.