Afghanistan Post-2014: Will the Dark Days Return?

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Afghan National Army (ANA). Photograph by Lt Sally Armstrong, RN / MOD via Helmand Blog on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

October 7, 2012 marked the 11th anniversary of the United States-led war in Afghanistan. International combat forces are due to leave the country at the end of 2014, yet the war has remained “mission unaccomplished“. After years of conflict, NATO forces are set to handover responsibility for securing the country to the Afghan armed forces. However, it remains to be seen whether the Afghan’s will be able maintain order and stability after the withdrawal of foreign troops?

In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in order to dismantle the Taliban regime and the core leadership of al Qaeda. After several weeks of conflict, NATO troops successfully ousted the Taliban from various cities and helped to establish a new democratic country — the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

As a result, the Taliban regime remains a bitter memory for most Afghans, who never want to see them come to power again.

Naseer, a Kabul resident writes [fa]:

زمان طالبان،‌یک زمان تاریک در تاریخ کشور ماست. در زمان طالبان مردم ما هیچ امیدی برای زندگی کردن نداشتند. چون هرچه که داشتند توسط طالبان یا سوزانده شد یا هم خراب شد[…] دوره طالبان دوره سیاهی است که هیچ شهروند افغان خاطرات آن را از یاد نمی‌برند.

The Taliban regime is a dark period of our country's history. During the Taliban regime our people had no hope to live. For, had they anything, it was either burned or destroyed […] The Taliban regime was a dark period that any Afghan citizen would never forget.

And while many Afghans suffered during the Taliban regime in various ways, it was females who suffered the most.

Tahmina Barakzay, a female teacher based in Kabul, writes [fa]:

«در زمان طالبان ما مجبور بودیم که در خانه باشیم. در بیرون از خانه کارکرده نمی‌توانستیم. اگر بیرون می‌برآمدیم حتما چادری می‌پوشیدیم. اگر چه من منحیث زن مسلمان پیش از زمان طالبان هم چادر به سرداشتم و حجاب اسلامی را مراعات می‌کردم اما در زمان طالبان اگر چادری نمی‌داشتیم، توسط طالبان کیبل می‌خوردیم […] ما از طالبان خاطره خوش نداریم. طالبان بدبختی‌های مردم ما را زیاد کردند و نمی‌خواهیم که این‌ها بار دیگر سر قدرت بیایند.

During the Taliban regime we were compelled to stay at home. [We] couldn't work outdoors. If we went outside we had to wear a burka. As a Muslim woman before the Taliban regime I still wore a veil and followed Islamic rules regarding the hijab, however, during the Taliban if we didn’t wear a burka we were whipped […] We have an ill-fated memory of the Taliban. [They] increased the miseries of our people and we don’t want them to come to power ever again.

Should they stay or should they go?

Zmaray Zalmay, a 30-year-old aid worker in Kabul says:

The Americans should not leave Afghanistan until 2020. We have the experience of 1992 [the year the Soviet-backed communist government fell in Afghanistan sparking a civil war]. We have Russia, China and Pakistan to worry about. We need America.


Not all Afghans share the same views. Many are unconvinced about the presence of NATO forces in the country. For instance, Ghulam Habib, a member of a local district council in Takhar Province claims:

For the past 10 years, with the Americans here, the situation has turned from bad to worse. The presence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has increased day by day, which shows the US strategy cannot bring security. So they can go.


A recent report by The International Crisis Group (ICG) warned that the Afghan government could collapse after the troop withdrawal. And some also predict ethnic clashes in the country.

In response to the report, an Afghan government statement said:

Our nation was not born in 2002. We have a history of 5,000 years. We have fought against superpowers in the past. Our national police and army are ready to defend the country's soul and sovereignty.

The United Nations envoy, Jan Kubis, has also dismissed predictions that Afghanistan is heading for collapse after 2014. Kubis said:

The international community is ready to do everything possible to support Afghanistan and frankly, to keep Afghanistan from lapsing into these kind of doom-and-gloom scenarios that are coming from different places

Frogh Wazhma, an Afghan gender and development specialist and human rights activist, criticized on Twitter:

@FroghWazhma: Reports over Reports predicting Afghanistan's descent into chaos. Why are the experts so excitingly promoting & predicting failure??

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

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