U.S. intervention in Afghanistan has done more harm than good

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Ishaan Nandwani, Contributing Writer

On Aug. 15, the world watched as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul and its government, declaring an end to the Afghanistan War that had waged on for years, and the dawn of a new era of leadership in the country.

The outcome, of course, is one that has been feared and dreaded by those around the world for years. The fall of the Afghan government marks the beginning of a regime of terror and persecution of basic human rights.

When I think of what this means for women and minorities, I’m horrified. Innocent Afghan civilians have already suffered so much at the hands of this war, and now start a new life under an autocratic rule.

The turning point of the Afghan government’s recent fall was President Joe Biden’s decision to formally withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan earlier this month. This decision was indisputably what led to the Taliban’s conquest of the government, but the true seeds of destruction were sown long before: a consequence of years of U.S. intervention that have done more harm than good.

U.S. troops have been stationed in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. After the devastating 9/11 attacks that ravaged the fabric of our nation, President George W. Bush retaliated against al-Qaida — the terrorist group responsible for the attacks — by launching airstrikes in their home base of Afghanistan, attempting to eliminate the Taliban forces that had taken root.

This unwavering need to wash out the Taliban resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Afghan people. The concept of collateral damage is sickening. To justify the killing of these innocent people in the name of squashing terrorism is extremely backward. These poor people went from being victims of the Taliban to victims of the American government as well.

Despite the U.S.’ initial victory against the Taliban, their forces remained in Afghanistan, increasing as the years went by. Afghan natives had to begin resigning themselves to these foreigners on their land. As Americans, we pride ourselves in our governance. A government for the people, by the people. Yet, the Afghan people were not given the same courtesy as American troops littered their nation.

What the U.S. didn’t realize was that as their military remained deployed in Afghanistan, support of the Taliban grew. Like I said before, Afghan people became victims of two forces. It comes as no surprise that some of them found a lesser evil in people who resembled them.

With the Afghan population split between supporting either the United States or the Taliban, those who did not choose the Taliban met danger this past month. Many of the nation’s people feel unsafe with American departure, especially those who supported our government. Afghan interpreters who assisted the American government with translations became enemies of the Taliban.

Sohail Pardis served as an interpreter for the American government. After receiving a multitude of death threats from the Taliban, he was beheaded by them and branded a traitor to his people. This could be the fate of many Afghan civilians left behind.

As troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan, President Biden has defended his choice in a press conference, stating, “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.”

This assertion is simply too shallow.

The Afghan government did not simply “give up” or surrender. To say that they did discounts the endless hours of toil, sacrifice and service that their troops engaged in before finally relenting.

The U.S. created the storm in Afghanistan that led to the Taliban takeover of the government. And in the Afghan people’s moment of greatest need, the United States made a decision that left these innocent people defenseless against the same terror America created. 

You see, the United States never sought to clean up their mess. Afghanistan has never known — and perhaps never will know — peace. And the United States has to take a part of the blame.

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