When we talk about Afghanistan, US troops are probably the first things to come to mind. It is true that the United States is helping build back the nation, but it withdrew for a brief period, eventually causing political turmoil and giving Taliban a chance to fight back.

Afghanistan’s ‘bad days’ started after the Soviets, who supported the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan Government, withdrew its forces from the country. The communist PDPA fought a civil war against then Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan and came to power in 1978 via a violent coupe.

The USSR supported the PDPA while its nemesis, the United States, supported an uprising via Pakistan’s intelligence agency – ISI. As a result, the PDPA government, which was then led by President Mohammad Najibullah and had brought changes such as prohibition of usury, equality of the sexes and giving women the opportunity to take part in politics, faced an armed civil war after the withdrawal of the Soviets. Soon Mohammad Najibullah lost support. However, a peace treaty was established by every other Afghan political party except for Hezb-e Islami.

Hezb-e Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, started a war against the capital. This caused the newly established political and security institutions to collapse creating a situation of disorder and turmoil. Approximately 25,000 people lost their lives in this violent period. This was when the Taliban rose to power by capturing southern Afghanistan and forcing dozens of local Pashtun leaders to surrender. Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Afghan political and military leader, tried to resolve the situation. He took over Kabul and invited Taliban leaders to join him in reopening courts, restoring law and order, and initiating a countrywide political process with the aim of achieving national consolidation. However, they declined and attacked Kabul twice. They were able to capture the capital in the second attempt and thus began the reign of Taliban in Afghanistan.

They imposed a strict form of Sharia law and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Around 400,000 Afghans died from 1990 to 2001 in the internal mini-wars. During 1996 to 2001, al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden began operating inside Afghanistan.

15661479331_14298bebde_zOn September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center in the US was attacked by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, killing many US citizens. The US demanded the Taliban government to handover bin Laden, but the Taliban outrightly refused. This caused the US to invade Afghanistan and begin a war on Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The Taliban government was replaced by a new Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai. The nation was renamed as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and was able to rebuild some of its democratic institutions. Foreign donor countries have been helping to improve the country’s economy, healthcare, education, transport and agriculture. UN forces have been training Afghan’s national security forces.

Taliban was never completely eradicated. It launched its insurgency to regain power in the nation. However, in mid-2015, the Taliban supreme leader finally decided to back further peace talks.

As a result of the 2014 presidential election, President Karzai left power and Ashraf Ghani succeeded him.

8208283461_d2d1b4f5f7_zOn December 28, 2014, the US ended its war in Afghanistan and recall its men and women from the country. Withdrawal of US troops caused Taliban to restart its attacks. The Afghan Local Police constantly engaged the Taliban forces, however Taliban is still strong in certain areas. US President Barack Obama scrapped the plan to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan before leaving office, a dispiriting blow to his hopes of extricating the US after 15 years of fighting. He announced he’ll leave 8,400 troops to address the hazardous situation in Afghanistan.

This reinforces the likelihood of US and Afghan relations to remain the same for years to come as they work together to suppress Taliban and train a still-struggling Afghan military. Two dozen New York Army National Guard air crew and aviators from Rochester are preparing to be deployed in Afghanistan in 2017.

– Deiptimaan Chowdhury, Correspondent (Asia: Middle East & Central)