‘Wasn’t their country, wasn’t their war’: Journo reminisces about US 20-year presence in Afghanistan

Elizabeth Blade

Two decades ago, American forces invaded Afghanistan to put an end to the brutal Taliban regime, eradicate the Al Qaeda terrorist network and capture its leader Osama Bin Laden, an architect of 9/11. A local journalist says their intentions were good but 20 years down the line, corruption is still in place, whereas radicalism has never faded.

“Back then, I was in the 7th grade but I remember the heavy bombing. We were panicking and my father took us to Laghman province, located in the East of Kabul. We stayed there for several months, until the situation got more stable and when we returned to the capital, I realised that a new era had begun,” Abasin recalled.

“Back then, I was in the 7th grade but I remember the heavy bombing. We were panicking and my father took us to Laghman province, located in the East of Kabul. We stayed there for several months, until the situation got more stable and when we returned to the capital, I realised that a new era has begun,” Abasin recalled.

The New Era

Soon after the ouster of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan established a pro-Western government, with President Hamid Karzai leading the country.

Washington poured billions of dollars into maintaining security and subduing pockets of extremists. They were pushing for economic reforms in the spheres of media, agriculture, human rights and freedoms. Abasin says that it felt that the Americans genuinely wanted to improve the situation. But at the end of the day, not much has actually changed.

Corruption has continued to be a major issue in Afghanistan, and reports suggested that Washington had turned a blind eye on the problem, tolerating the nation’s worst offenders, such as warlords, drug traffickers and defence contractors, only because they were allies of the US.

Regarding security, the US has also had its downfalls. Over the course of the 20 years, Washington lost nearly 4,000 contractors, more than 2,400 servicemen in addition to 1,444 troops of allied forces and 66,000 Afghanistan national military and police.

Pockets of extremists haven’t been eradicated, and terrorist attacks have never ceased.

“The US has poured billions of dollars into security but they didn’t do it for the sake of Afghanistan. They were motivaed by their own national interests,” said the journalist.

US National Interests

Experts are still debating what these interests actually were, but Abasin is certain that one of them was to make sure that “Afghanistan would never be able stand on its own feet”. When the US started to pull out in 2020, and the Taliban started to take over, the Afghan security forces proved that they actually couldn’t. The Afghan security forces collapsed under the pressure of the Taliban, despite the fact that they possessed better equipment, a greater number of personnel and western training.

Abasin says he doesn’t hold any grudges against the US. He says their withdrawal was inevitable and would have happened anyways because “it wasn’t their country and wasn’t their war”.

Looking back at the time the Americans troops spent in his country, he says he feels grateful for the opportunities they have brought to Afghanistan but the taste their pullout has left is bittersweet.

“Americans have benefited us in three major spheres. They brought us the reconstruction, better education and freedom of speech that is now being challenged.”

“I don’t trust the West anymore because it is all about their interests but I am thankful for what they gave us throughout these years.”

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