In The News: What will happen in Afghanistan when the US withdraws its troops?

Human rights activists fear a return to Taliban rule would be disastrous, especially for women

American troops left their key military base, Bagram Airfield, in Afghanistan, in the middle of the night. According to the base's new Afghan commander, it was controversially done without any prior notice. Video: Reuters

In April, US president Joe Biden announced all remaining troops in Afghanistan would be withdrawn, ending what the president described as “America’s longest war”.

The military withdrawal started last year when then-president Donald Trump signed a deal with Taliban militants to begin bringing American troops home.

Biden had said the withdrawal would be completed by September 11th to mark the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks. However, reports now indicate most American troops will be out of the country in the coming days.

What will the US departure mean for the people of Afghanistan and the future of their country? With Taliban insurgents stepping up attacks on the Afghan government, a new wave of violence is leading to concerns of civil war once US troops are gone. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that with US troops gone, the Taliban may retake control, leading to a new civil war.


A return to Taliban rule would be a disastrous result for the educational, political and human rights advances made over the past two decades. Before that, when the country was under Taliban control during the late 1990s, women were banned from going to school, working, showing their skin in public or leaving the house without a male chaperone.

“Since March last year, tens of human rights defenders and media workers and women were targeted and killed in Afghanistan,” Afghan human rights activist Horia Mosadiq told presenter Sorcha Pollak. “ In the past few weeks, the Taliban are advancing significantly and what you’re really scared about is that Taliban will take control and you would go back to the same situation we were in 1990s. And we will turn Afghanistan into a living prison for everyone, but most particularly for a woman.”

Historian and former advisor to the US Government’s Joint Chiefs of staff in Afghanistan, Carter Malkasian, said withdrawing troops was the “right call” but that it had been a “hard decision” for the Biden administration.

The US president had the choice of remaining in Afghanistan with a small number of troops and facing a war that will “go on and on and on as long as we’re there”.

“We’re not going to have a chance really to negotiate a solution, Trump has basically torpedoed that. So he (Biden) has that choice, or he has the choice of leaving.”

Mr Malkasian, who lived in Afghanistan for two years, noted that even though the country was in many ways a failed state by “political science definitions”, there was still “hope for the future”.

“Afghanistan had a reasonable amount of stability before 1979. And history comes in different cycles and in different flows. So, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we could see Afghanistan as a much happier place.”

In The News is hosted by reporters Conor Pope and Sorcha Pollak.

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