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World EXPLAINER: What remains as US ends Afghan 'forever war'

09:50  30 april  2021
09:50  30 april  2021 Source:   msn.com

Millions in Taliban Taxes Show Who’s in Charge as U.S. Departs

  Millions in Taliban Taxes Show Who’s in Charge as U.S. Departs Running a business in Afghanistan has one unspoken rule: Pay the Taliban. © Photographer: KARIM JAAFAR/AFP Members of the Taliban delegation attend the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha. Abdul Ahad Wahidi learned that the hard way when insurgents blew up a gas pipeline last year that fuels the country’s only fertilizer plant after its operator refused to pay up. Now he and other workers at the factory fork over 14% of their wages to the Taliban -- nearly five times more than they pay the government in taxes.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — After 20 years, America is ending its “forever war” in Afghanistan.

FILE - In this Dec. 23, 2015 file photo, a U.S. service member salutes her fallen comrades during a memorial ceremony for six Airmen killed in a suicide attack, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. ter 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. There’s conflicting views even among U. S. military minds as to  whether the time is right. For others there is another lingering question: Was it worth it? (Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/U.S. Air Force via AP) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 23, 2015 file photo, a U.S. service member salutes her fallen comrades during a memorial ceremony for six Airmen killed in a suicide attack, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. ter 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. There’s conflicting views even among U. S. military minds as to whether the time is right. For others there is another lingering question: Was it worth it? (Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/U.S. Air Force via AP)

Announcing a firm withdrawal deadline, President Joe Biden cut through the long debate, even within the U.S. military, over whether the time was right. Starting Saturday, the last remaining 2,500 to 3,5000 American troops will begin leaving, to be fully out by Sept. 11 at the latest.

US envoy doesn't foresee 'imminent collapse' of Afghan government after US withdrawal

  US envoy doesn't foresee 'imminent collapse' of Afghan government after US withdrawal The top U.S. envoy to Afghanistan peace talks expressed some optimism Tuesday about the ability of Afghan forces to fight the Taliban after all U.S. troops leave, sounding a more upbeat tone than U.S. military officials have since President Biden announced his withdrawal plans."Some of our analysts are worst case circumstances on challenges that we confront," Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

Another debate will likely go on far longer: Was it worth it?

Since 2001, tens of thousands of Afghans and 2,442 American soldiers have been killed, millions of Afghans driven from their homes, and billions of dollars spent on war and reconstruction. As the departure begins, The Associated Press takes a look at the mission and what it accomplished.

FILE - In this 1998 file photo made available on March 19, 2004, Osama bin Laden is seen at a news conference in Khost, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. After the terror assault of 9/11 the world rallied behind America and together the US and NATO entered Afghanistan to hunt down and destroy the mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida terrorist network. But  the US and its allies have been dragged into a war between a re-emergent Taliban and an Afghan government, dominated by warlords, whose power and wealth were alienating ordinary Afghans. (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this 1998 file photo made available on March 19, 2004, Osama bin Laden is seen at a news conference in Khost, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. After the terror assault of 9/11 the world rallied behind America and together the US and NATO entered Afghanistan to hunt down and destroy the mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida terrorist network. But the US and its allies have been dragged into a war between a re-emergent Taliban and an Afghan government, dominated by warlords, whose power and wealth were alienating ordinary Afghans. (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)

FIGHTING TERROR

Afghans fear US withdrawal could stifle progress as Taliban wait in the shadows

  Afghans fear US withdrawal could stifle progress as Taliban wait in the shadows It’s been almost two decades since the United States declared a war on terror. President Joe Biden announced withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Yet, the Taliban is stronger than any time since their fall in 2001. As troops return home, the group's power has raised concerns not only of terror reaching Americans at home but more so among the Afghans who are living under the group's shadow government, which controls large swaths of the country.

In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S., the mission seemed clear: Hunt down and punish the perpetrators.

The U.S. determined that al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden, had plotted the attack from the safety of Afghanistan, protected by its radical Taliban rulers. At the time the Taliban were a pariah government, under U.N. sanctions and vilified in the West for their rule by a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

FILE - In this May 5, 2020 file photo, graffiti depicts Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO leave behind an Afghanistan that is at least half run directly or indirectly by the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this May 5, 2020 file photo, graffiti depicts Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO leave behind an Afghanistan that is at least half run directly or indirectly by the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

Until 9/11, the U.S. had watched Afghanistan from a distance, occasionally requesting the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and once in 1998 firing a couple of cruise missiles at an al-Qaida base in eastern Afghanistan.

U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, but Al Qaeda remains

  U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, but Al Qaeda remains As U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, efforts against a diminished Al Qaeda are in flux. Officials say the terrorist group could threaten the U.S. again.It was a tableau often seen in years past, but on this recent afternoon there was a crucial difference: The Afghans were alone, without the American forces that have backed them in a 20-year war.

Now America was leading an invasion, dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom, with the mission of removing the Taliban and destroying al-Qaida.

Washington turned to the only allies in Afghanistan it could — a collection of warlords, most of whom were former mujahedeen backed by the U.S. in the 1980s in the fight against the invading Soviet Union. Rallying around the U.S. after 9/11, NATO joined the coalition.

Within weeks of the invasion and aerial bombardment, the U.S.-led coalition had pounded the Taliban into submission and driven them from power. Its leadership fled, its fighters lost control of the entire nation. Al-Qaida as well fled underground, crossing into neighboring Pakistan.

The hunt for bin Laden took 10 years. Finally, he was tracked to his hideout in Pakistan, barely 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Islamabad. A U.S. Navy Seals team went in under cover of darkness and killed him.

But in the interceding decade, America and NATO had been dragged into a dramatically expanded mission. Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at first said America was not in Afghanistan to nation-build. That would change.

Formal start of final phase of Afghan pullout by US, NATO

  Formal start of final phase of Afghan pullout by US, NATO KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The final phase of ending America's “forever war” in Afghanistan after 20 years formally began Saturday, with the withdrawal of the last U.S. and NATO troops by the end of summer. President Joe Biden had set May 1 as the official start of the withdrawal of the remaining forces — about 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops and about 7,000 NATO soldiers.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it took its eye off Afghanistan. It left it to the former warlords, pre-occupied with wealth and power. The first post-Taliban president, Hamid Karzai, raised the idea of talks with the Taliban to work out a peace, and the crushed militants put out signals they wanted to reach an accommodation.

FILE - In this May 23, 2006 file photo, Afghan school girls read their lessons at the Aziz Afghan Secondary School in Kabul, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. Girls are in school where under the Taliban they were banned, yet according to the United Nations Education Fund 3.6 million children are out of school, the majority of whom are girls. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this May 23, 2006 file photo, Afghan school girls read their lessons at the Aziz Afghan Secondary School in Kabul, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. Girls are in school where under the Taliban they were banned, yet according to the United Nations Education Fund 3.6 million children are out of school, the majority of whom are girls. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

But American officials blocked any negotiations with the Taliban, convinced the insurgents could be militarily destroyed.

Instead, the militants re-emerged in a long insurgency, and the U.S. found itself pouring in money and manpower to help the Afghan government fight and to rebuild the war-shattered nation. With the flood of billions of dollars, corruption only grew in the U.S.-backed government, only growing worse as the years went on.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida’s ability to strike the U.S. and the West has been severely damaged. But the group has spread in branches in multiple countries fighting in insurgencies.

Afghanistan Ambassador Fears for Women Under Taliban as U.S. Troops Leave

  Afghanistan Ambassador Fears for Women Under Taliban as U.S. Troops Leave Women's rights advocates have criticized the United States' plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan without securing assurances from the Taliban about protections for women.Roya Rahmani, the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., said she is worried that violence in the country will "continue or even possibly escalate," which she said is likely to have a direct impact on Afghan women.

Biden explained his decision to pull out the last 2,500-3,500 American soldiers from Afghanistan, saying America’s security concerns had evolved.

“Bin Laden is dead, and al-Qaida is degraded in Iraq -- in Afghanistan, he said, arguing that the terror threat has “metastasized” into a global phenomenon, not to be fought with thousands of troops on the ground in one country but with new technology. The U.S., he said, must be freed to fight the 21st century’s more sophisticated challenges, including competition from Russia and China.

For the situation in Afghanistan, he said he didn’t see how continued American military presence would bring a turnaround. “When will it be the right moment to leave? One more year, two more years, ten more years?” he said.

FILE - In this file photo, Afghan security force members stand outside a USAID compound in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, Friday, July 2, 2010 after it was stormed by militants wearing suicide vests. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. There’s conflicting views even among U. S. military minds as to whether the time is right. For others there is another lingering question: Was it worth it? (AP Photo) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this file photo, Afghan security force members stand outside a USAID compound in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, Friday, July 2, 2010 after it was stormed by militants wearing suicide vests. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. There’s conflicting views even among U. S. military minds as to whether the time is right. For others there is another lingering question: Was it worth it? (AP Photo)

“’Not now” — that’s how we got here.’”

WHAT NOW FOR AFGHANISTAN?

The U.S. and NATO leave behind an Afghanistan that is at least half run directly or indirectly by the Taliban — despite billions poured into training and arming Afghan forces to fight them. Riddled with corruption and tied to regional warlords, the U.S.-backed government is widely distrusted by many Afghans.

Milley: ‘Not a foregone conclusion the Taliban automatically win’

  Milley: ‘Not a foregone conclusion the Taliban automatically win’ DON’T COUNT AFGHAN MILITARY OUT: While acknowledging the outcome of the war between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government is uncertain, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the Afghan military should not be counted out. © Provided by Washington Examiner DOD header 2020 “It's not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls or any of those kinds of dire predictions,” Milley said, standing alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Pentagon briefing yesterday.

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2019 file photo, a wounded man is brought by stretcher into a hospital after a mortar was fired by insurgents in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. There’s conflicting views even among U. S. military minds as to whether the time is right. For others there is another lingering question: Was it worth it? (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2019 file photo, a wounded man is brought by stretcher into a hospital after a mortar was fired by insurgents in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. There’s conflicting views even among U. S. military minds as to whether the time is right. For others there is another lingering question: Was it worth it? (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon, File)

Washington and its international allies are putting heavy pressure on the government and the Taliban to reach a peace deal. The hope is that both sides realize military victory is impossible and that peace together is the only way forward.

The best case scenario is some sort of government including the Taliban that can pave the way for a drawing up a new constitutional system for the future, including some form of elections.

The very possible worst case scenario is that peace talks fail, and Afghanistan is plunged into a new chapter of its decades of civil war. That new phase could be more brutal than ever, with not only the Taliban but the country’s other, multiple warlords and armed factions battling it out for power.

FILE - In this Dec. 23, 2009 file photo, United States Marine LCpl. Franklin Romans of Michigan, from the 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 23, 2009 file photo, United States Marine LCpl. Franklin Romans of Michigan, from the 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines "Warlords" searches a house during an operation in the Garmsir district of the volatile Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. There’s conflicting views even among U. S. military minds as to whether the time is right. For others there is another lingering question: Was it worth it? (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)

The past 20 years since the Taliban were ousted have unquestionably seen gains for the Afghans. But they are fragile and risk being wiped away as the Americans step away — whether frittered away under a new government or crushed by continued war.

Death toll soars to 50 in school bombing in Afghan capital

  Death toll soars to 50 in school bombing in Afghan capital KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The death toll in a horrific bombing at a girls’ school in the Afghan capital has soared to 50, many of them pupils between 11 and 15 years old, the Interior Ministry said Sunday. The number of wounded in Saturday's attack has also climbed to more than 100, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian. Three explosions outside the school entrance struck as students were leaving for the day, he said. The blasts occurred in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in the west of the capital. The Taliban denied responsibility, condemning the attack.

Girls are allowed an education, which had been banned under the Taliban. Still, at least 3.6 million children, the majority of them girls, are not in school, according to UNICEF.

FILE - In this May 10, 2009 file photo, a man carries a sack of wheat distributed to poor displaced families, distributed by World Food Program with the cooperation of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the United States Agency for International Development, in Kandahar Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. With a poverty rate of 54 per cent, which means the majority of Afghans are living on $1.90, the majority of Afghans hold out little hope for their future according to a 2018 Gallup poll. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan, File): Afghanistan US © Provided by Associated Press Afghanistan US

Women are working and are in Parliament. Their voices are strong yet still Afghanistan’s Parliament has been unable to pass The Violence Against Women bill because religious conservatives dominate. The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security has consistently ranked Afghanistan as one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman.

Before the war in 2001, the Taliban had eradicated opium production in Afghanistan, according to United Nations figures. Today, it produces more opium than every other opium-producing country combined, despite the U.S. spending millions to eradicate drug production.

The opium industry in 2019, the latest available figures show, earned between $1.2 billion and $2.1 billion, outstripping the value of the country’s legal exports, according to John Sopko, the U.S. government’s watchdog on Afghan reconstruction. More than $14 million of that went into the coffers of the Taliban, who tax drug movement throughout the country.

Despite billions in U.S. humanitarian and reconstruction aid, more than half the population of 36 million lives under the World Bank-set poverty line of $1.90 a day — and millions more live not much above that level. Unemployment is at 40%. The U.N. and Red Cross say nearly half of all Afghan children face the danger of hunger.

The majority of Afghans hold out little hope for their future according to a 2018 Gallup poll.

“Afghanistan is bordering a failed state status and is sure to enter the category immediately after the withdrawal of the foreign forces absent a better political arrangement,” said Torek Farhadi, a political analyst and former government adviser. “That is the reality of Afghanistan.”

Death toll soars to 50 in school bombing in Afghan capital .
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The death toll in a horrific bombing at a girls’ school in the Afghan capital has soared to 50, many of them pupils between 11 and 15 years old, the Interior Ministry said Sunday. The number of wounded in Saturday's attack has also climbed to more than 100, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian. Three explosions outside the school entrance struck as students were leaving for the day, he said. The blasts occurred in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in the west of the capital. The Taliban denied responsibility, condemning the attack.

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