The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist military group, brought Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, under complete military control in mid-August, and consequently, the Afghan government under the last President Ashraf Ghani, which the US supported militarily for nearly 20 years, entirely collapsed. Looking back on the tragedy in the US 20 years ago, on September 11, 2001, simultaneous terrorist attacks on several buildings including the World Trade Center in New York broke out which were found out to be plotted and carried out by Al-Qaeda, a broad-based militant Islamist organization. In response, in October, 2001, the US government under the regime of President George W. Bush, dropped aerial bombs over Afghanistan in cooperation with the UK for the reason that the Taliban in Afghanistan hid Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda. As a result, the US-supported democratic Afghan government was established and continued until the US forces’ withdrawal in mid-August this year. The then Taliban regime collapsed, but it became a terrorist and guerrilla group, and survived perseveringly.
In recent years, the US government has reached the point where it can no longer continue to provide military aid to Afghanistan, and decided to withdraw the US military forces during the Trump administration. The subsequent Biden administration ultimately decided to complete the withdrawal by the end of August this year. Initially, the US government considered to delay the withdrawal for several years, and hold international discussions with the allies on the future form of Afghan government. However, on August 15, the Taliban abruptly took over the Afghan government, which the US supported for 20 years, and President Gahni’s government collapsed and he left Afghanistan.
The US has suffered heavy casualties of soldiers and payments for high costs of military facilities and equipment during the US military forces’ stationing in Afghanistan for the past 20 years. In this respect, the withdrawal of the US military forces from Afghanistan has often been compared to the end of the Vietnam War which gave the US military forces a crushing defeat. Where does the political responsibility lie for the US army forces’ stationing in Afghanistan for 20 long years? President Joe Biden made the following remarks at the White House on August 16: “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision. American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/08/16/remarks-by-president-biden-on-afghanistan/)
The new Afghan government led by the Taliban started in mid-August. However, the Taliban regime is characterized by Islamic fundamentalism, discriminating and oppressing women and violating human rights which are far from the modern democratic political system. It reminds me of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in March 2001. The ruins were registered on the World Heritage Site in 2003.
For the new Afghanistan, it becomes crucial to see how the new Taliban government will interact with the international community and how the international community, including Japan, will respond.