“I said al-Qaeda wouldn’t be there. I said we’d get help from the Taliban. What’s happening now? What’s going on? Read your press. I was right.”
—President Joe Biden, speaking in June and defending his decision to pull out of Afghanistan by pointing to the drone strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
“It is completely divorced from reality for President Biden to claim that al-Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan or that the Taliban has somehow become our national security partner in the region.”
—House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), pointing to the fact that al-Zawahiri was living in the home of a Taliban official
Afghanistan in 2021 made headlines for weeks and left some images seared into the public’s collective memory. The horrifying sight of desperate people climbing on the outside of departing US planes and then plummeting to their deaths is unlikely to be forgotten for some time.
But in general, Afghanistan has been forgotten. It was a place where US soldiers and other foreign soldiers spent years trying to remake the country; but when they left, any small attention that most outsiders directed to Afghanistan disappeared.
It’s been two years since the withdrawal. What has happened in Afghanistan since then, and what does it mean for the rest of the world? After all, the US only entered Afghanistan after planes hit US landmarks on 9/11. Is the worry of another terror attack gone?
How bad has it been for the people of Afghanistan?
In some very specific ways, life has gotten better for the people of Afghanistan since the Taliban took power. That’s because the main source of conflict inside the country, the fight between the US-backed former government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, has ended. There is less of that sort of violent fighting, complete with drone attacks, that ended the lives of many civilians. The Taliban appear to have also been successful in fighting one of their remaining major opponents within the country, ISIS.
Of course, on the other hand, the Taliban have been repressive in ways that have changed the lives of many people, most notably women. They have banned education for women beyond sixth grade and have massively restricted the ability of women to work outside the home. They recently closed beauty salons in the country, one of over 50 edicts that they have specifically aimed at women’s behavior.
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