The Longest War in U.S. History Has Left a Failed State in Afghanistan

by Lisa Sorush published on CovertAction Magazine, December 29, 2023

We cannot forget Afghanistan.  It is crystal clear evidence of the U.S. impunity heartlessness in destroying a

Afghanistan is in the midst of a severe crisis as a result of the 20-year U.S.-NATO war which culminated in a return to the status quo—that is the return of the Taliban to power.

Unequivocally, the United States failed in its fight against terrorism in Afghanistan—which was a farce to begin with because the Taliban had not been responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The main consequence of the 20-year U.S.-NATO war was to produce more terrorism in the country—some of it adopted under the rubric of anti-occupation resistance.

The U.S. had claimed at the time that Al Qaeda and their leadership were being harbored in Afghanistan from 1996-2021, though the Taliban had offered to turn alleged 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden over to an Islamic court for trial after 9/11—an offer the Bush administration refused.

Overall, the U.S. has spent at least $2.313 trillion on the War on Terror, which includes operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

[Source: watson.brown.edu]
According to the Brown University Costs of War Project, between August and October 2021, this battle killed 243,000 people. This figure excludes sickness, food and water shortages, and other unanticipated repercussions.

[Source: watson.brown.edu]
And yet for all the blood and treasure, the Taliban took back power in May 2021. The character of the Taliban regime was apparent in its appointment as Acting Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was previously on the FBI’s “most wanted” list.

Some Afghans of course regard the Taliban as anti-imperialist heroes for having expelled the foreign invaders. After their victory over the U.S.-NATO coalition, the Taliban repeatedly declared amnesty to the people, but the level of vengeance against U.S.-NATO collaborators and tribal enemies of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban have remained high.

The Biden administration’s current strategy appears to be intent on punishing the Taliban for their military victory, with reports suggesting that the CIA is trying to reinvigorate the old Northern Alliance coalition led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of a former “asset“, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the “Lion of Panjshir” who was assassinated a mere two days before the 9/11 attacks.

The Taliban claim to be different from previous regimes and that they will bring about change; they are, however, the same regime that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, that is they continue to rule oppressively.

Between August 2021 and June 2022, more than 700 civilians were killed and 1,406 were injured, according to the UNAMA report. Since August 2021, more than 777,400 Afghans, including women and children, have been displaced as a result of Taliban violence.

Tajik and Hazara ethnic groups were the hardest hit. The Taliban and ISIS have increasingly targeted Afghanistan’s minority Hazaras over the last two decades.

An ISIS-K attack killed and injured more than 120 people in August 2022 in the western part of Kabul, where the Hazara community predominates. Other attacks, especially on Hazara places of worship, schools, and other public places, were extremely concerning.

Dr. Faizullah Jalal, a political rights activist and former professor of law and political science at Kabul University, argued that, over the last two decades, all Afghans—not just Hazaras—have lost basic human rights and have been subjected to violence.

In September 2022, the Taliban massacred more than 140 people in Abdullah Khel Valley, Panjshir Province. Many urban Panjshir residents who did not support the Taliban were executed and flogged. Every day, the Taliban tortures and murders dozens of civilians across the country, most of whom live in non-Pashtun cities.

Over the last two decades, the Taliban have perpetrated major human rights violations, suicide bombings, and corruption in Afghanistan. After the U.S. withdrew ignominiously in August 2021, President Biden froze billions of dollars in assets from the Afghanistan Central Bank for American relatives of 9/11 victims, believing that they might be redirected to terrorist organizations, but the U.S. left $85 billion in equipment for the Taliban. Currently more than 39 million Afghan people require humanitarian assistance, and six million are hungry. According to the UN Resident Coordinator, 95% of Afghans, virtually 100% of whom live in homes let by women, do not have enough food to eat.

Following the fall of the former Afghan government, NATO’s areas of intervention were shifted to Afghanistan’s neighbors and regional countries, including Pakistan, Russia, Iran, China, India and others, to fill the gaps they had created.

However, serious concerns have been raised about internal conflicts and Afghanistan’s division. There is concern about ISIS, foreign terrorists, private contractors, and mercenaries. Dr. Jalal believes that the United States and Europe have pursued the wrong strategy in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, relying solely on Pakistani advice as well as select warlords/drug trafficking and mafia groups.

National Concerns

In August 2021, the Taliban issued widespread gender-based racist policies affecting women’s rights and empowerment. According to Harun Najafizada, International Afghanistan TV, over 3 million Afghan girls have been denied the right to attend school, forcing them to stay at home. According to Taliban law, women are not permitted to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male guardian.

Even though women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj claimed on her interview with International Afghanistan TV, since the Taliban’s control Kabul in 2021,“ I traveled from Kabul more than 100 times, they never asked about my male guardian; however, on one of my visits to Pakistan, a woman was asked by the Taliban, “where is your male guardian?” because she was Hazara—and this is prejudice.

A group of women hold a street protest calling on the Taliban to protect their rights, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17, 2021. [Source: cbsnews.com]
The U.S. sent over $40 million to Taliban, however, the money was not intended for the people of Afghanistan, and they never explained why and how they delivered it, she added. Ultimately, it demonstrated that the U.S. supports the Taliban even if they remain the same as they were in 1996–especially with regards to women [The Clinton administration initially supported the Taliban when they came to power because of its interest in building an oil pipeline by UNOCAL]. She said the Taliban are unwilling to recognize women as such; they never rely on them, and there are many challenges for women in Afghanistan.

Most Taliban leaders, including Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and his deputy, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, support girls’ education beyond the sixth grade, according to an Afghan journalist who wishes to remain anonymous, but the Taliban acting Minister of Justice, the acting President, and the Acting State Judge continue to oppose the establishment of girls’ schools. The Taliban’s violations of women’s rights must be recognized as crimes against humanity.

Dr. Jalal claims that in the past, not only the Taliban, but also the administrations of Ashraf Ghani and Hamid Karzai that were backed by the U.S., violated women’s rights. They had no regard for women’s rights; to them, it was all a game.

The Taliban and previous governments all opposed democracy, and women’s rights, whatever lip service they may have paid to it. The Taliban and the majority of former government officials were in charge of crimes against civility, theft and betrayal.

Dr. Jalal said, “when Bismillah Khan Mohammadi was Defense Minister from 2012-2015, a sizable portion of the legislature served as drug lords and traffickers in the ministry’s helicopters.” This is the kind of “freedom” the U.S. and NATO brought to Afghanistan—and now we are supposed to believe they are going to help “liberate” Ukraine and the rest of the world from the evil Russians!

Opium addicts light up in Kabul to escape their lives of misery. [Source: time.com]
Afghanistan today has five million drug addicts. One million people are women and children. A staggering 40% of the population is poor, with the majority of them unemployed or homeless. There are more beggars in cities now, a direct consequence of the U.S.-NATO invasion, and the Taliban are unable to do much to help them. According to UN estimates, Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries, with 72% of its population living in poverty.

There are many young people who are unemployed. The public has criticized a number of Taliban policies, including the decision to close schools, the headscarf, and how to handle international relations.

According to a women’s rights activist, when the Taliban took power, the entire nation paid the price for the abuses. “The dark future of our people tore at my heart,” the activist said. She hopes that international foreign policy will prioritize the human rights situation in Afghanistan. Regardless of the circumstances, she believes Afghan women are brave and will always fight for their rights. They are not going to give up.”

The Taliban effectively banned all political parties and civil rights activities. Almost all media outlets’ freedom has been restricted; dozens of radio and television stations, including those broadcasting international news, as well as nearly 100 operating newspapers, have been closed down. How do people express themselves? Everyone has the right to their own opinions, whether or not the Taliban approved. Every citizen has the fundamental right to freely express their opinions.

Girls going to school in Kabul during the period of Soviet rule, which might have been a golden age if the U.S. had not armed mujahadin fanatics to destroy Afghanistan’s socialist revolution. [Source: youtube.com]
She pleaded with women’s rights activists to use their voices and pen to tell international leaders that women and children in Afghanistan are human beings. They should have access to basic human rights, such as freedom, education, food, safety, shelter and health care.

The latter was provided to the Afghan people under the period of Soviet rule—a taboo topic in the U.S. today.

The U.S. and NATO failed the Afghan people, and the women’s movement, and allowed terrorists to win. The U.S supported a few puppets, such as Karzai, Ghani, and their team filled their pockets with U.S. dollars and acted in accordance with U.S. policies.

The United States has never supported Afghans. The country has always been used as a pawn in a larger game; a way to strike at the Russians or expand American power in the Middle East. The country’s main value lies ultimately in its location as a gateway between the Middle East and South Asia and potential mineral wealth. Nothing more, nothing less.


Lisa Sorush is an anti-war activist, poet, and writer.  She has a master of science in conflict management and resolution from University of San Diego and bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University, Fullerton.  Lisa can be reached at .
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