After 20 years of intervention in Afghanistan, with military occupation, fighting against the extremist Taliban group, changes in American public opinion and a withdrawal full of questions, the US announced this Monday afternoon (30) the end of the withdrawal of its troops of the country.
The mission, the longest war the US has ever been involved in, began in 2001, weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The terrorist attack was claimed by the al-Qaeda group, led by Osama bin Laden, then sheltering in Afghanistan — which justified the invasion.
Over the two decades, according to a study by Brown University (USA), about 160,000 people died (of which 2,298 American soldiers, 3,814 mercenaries, 1,145 allies and the rest, Afghans). The cost was $2.26 trillion, a number that the Pentagon puts at around $1 trillion.
Recall some of the main moments of the US occupation of Afghanistan, based on information from the Council on Foreign Relations, an institution that studies US international affairs.
September 11, 2001: Terrorists from the terrorist group Al Qaeda hijack four commercial planes. Two of them crash into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York; the third crashes into the Pentagon in Washington, and the fourth crashes into a field in Pennsylvania. About 3,000 people died in the attacks. In reaction, the US president at the time, Republican George W. Bush, promises to “win the war on terror” and accuses the Taliban, the group that ruled Afghanistan, of harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
October 7, 2001: US and British armies begin bombing in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Canada, Australia, Germany and France pledge support.
November 2001: The Taliban regime quickly disbands with attacks, and the UN calls for a central role in establishing a transitional administration in Afghanistan.
December 2001: The international coalition defeats the Taliban, which surrenders on December 6th.
April 2002: Bush calls for the reconstruction of Afghanistan in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute. The US Congress committed more than $38 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009.
January 2004: An assembly of 502 Afghan delegates agrees on a constitution for the country, creating a strong presidential system designed to unite the various ethnic groups.
October 2004: Bin Laden appears in a video, days before the US presidential election, in which Bush is re-elected, and claims responsibility for the attacks on the World Trade Center.
July 2006: Violence escalates across Afghanistan, with several suicide attacks.
November 2006: The then Secretary General of NATO (Western Military Alliance), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, sets 2008 as a goal for the Afghan Army to begin taking control of security in the country.
February 2009: Then-new US President Barack Obama announces plans to send another 17,000 troops into the war zone. As of January 2009, the Pentagon already had 37,000 troops in Afghanistan, split between US and NATO commands.
August 2009: US forces total between 60,000 and 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. Even so, clashes with the Taliban persist in the interior of the country.
December 2009: For the first time, an American president speaks of a deadline for a US military presence in Afghanistan: Obama defines July 2011 as the beginning of a troop reduction, but does not detail how long a withdrawal will take.
November 2010: At a summit in Lisbon, NATO member countries sign a declaration agreeing to hand over full responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
May 2011: Osama bin Laden is found and killed by US officials in Pakistan.
June 2011: Polls show record number of Americans against war; as of mid-2011, more than 150,000 foreign soldiers were on Afghan soil, 100,000 of whom were Americans. Obama outlines a plan to withdraw 33,000 troops by the summer of 2012. After the departure of the booster troops, an estimated 70,000 US troops are expected to remain until at least 2014.
October 2011: A decade into the war, casualties include 1,800 US troop casualties and $444 billion spent.
June 2013: Afghan forces take the lead in responsibility for security in the country.
June 2014: Ashraf Ghani is elected president of Afghanistan amid allegations of fraud.
May 2014: Obama announces a timetable for the withdrawal of most US forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The first phase of the plan called for the retention of 9,800 US troops.
December 2014: NATO announces the end of its combat mission in Afghanistan. But under pacts signed months earlier, 12,500 foreign soldiers (9,800 of them Americans) would remain in the country to train Afghan troops and carry out targeted operations against terrorist groups.
April 2017: Now with Donald Trump as president, the United States drops its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on alleged self-proclaimed Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. Trump threatens to deploy thousands more troops, while the Taliban increases the number of suicide attacks.
January 2018: The Taliban carries out a series of terrorist attacks in Kabul that kill more than 115 people amid a broader rise in violence.
February 2019: US-Taliban talks strengthen.
February 2020: US and Taliban sign an agreement that calls for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, in exchange for the country no longer being a stronghold of terrorist groups.
April 2021: President Joe Biden announces that the US will not meet the deadline set in the agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all troops by May 1st and releases a plan for a full withdrawal by September 11, 2021.
Aug 15, 2021: Amid the partial withdrawal of US troops and facing little resistance, the Taliban takes over the country, arrives in the capital, Kabul, and President Ashraf Ghani leaves the country. The Taliban takes control. The fall of Kabul causes panic. Thousands of people flock to the airport, hoping to flee, while Western countries organize the evacuation of their citizens and people under their protection. More than 122,000 foreigners and Afghans would be evacuated by air from Kabul.
Aug 30, 2021: The US announces that it has withdrawn all its troops from Afghanistan.