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In May 2021, the United States abruptly withdrew US “peacekeeping forces” from Afghanistan under the orders of US President Joe Biden as part of a signed agreement between the US and Taliban forces. As the US withdrew, the Taliban began a military resurgence to take over military and government outposts that had been secured by the US and Afghan forces over the last 20 years, leading to chaos, violence, and the eventual fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021. Thousands tried to flee the Taliban’s oppressive reign, causing an infamous, massive pileup at the Kabul airport. Of those, about 123,000 were safely evacuated.

Since then, the Taliban have implemented a number of regressive laws and policies. One of the most damaging of these is that they have revoked most of the rights and freedoms that women enjoyed under the previous Afghan ruling government. Women have been effectively forced back into the domestic sphere as they have been ousted from Afghanistan’s political system, universities, secondary schools, and the private sector. They are also now forced to adhere to a strict dress code and can’t travel more than 75 km without a man. According to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), this has caused a mental health crisis in Afghanistan as women report feeling “invisible, isolated, suffocated, living in prison-like conditions.”

Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have recognized the Taliban rule as legitimate. Its Central Asian neighbors to the north have chosen a more careful and practical diplomatic approach. The governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have kept their official political and economic engagement with the Taliban in an attempt to wield some effect on the situation there. In return, the Taliban have promised not to allow other terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP), to launch attacks on Central Asia. That promise has been kept only to a certain degree, as the ISKP has launched several attacks on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in border areas. 

With the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022, Russia has lessened its presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Since Russia has been the main security guarantor for the region, its partial withdrawal has allowed the Taliban to take a more aggressive approach in the region, exposing Central Asia to possible diversions from the south. With the rapidly deteriorating socio-economic and security situation on the ground, prospects of any development seem bleak.

The effects of this crisis will spread farther than Afghanistan and are already having global consequences. In our special coverage, we explore how the cataclysm in Afghanistan is affecting communities worldwide.

Besides the ISKP and other smaller terrorist organizations active in Afghanistan, the National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Ahmad Massoud is the only domestic resistance group fighting against the Taliban to establish a new and inclusive government. The group is based in the northern province of Panjshir, which has been a historical stronghold of the anti-Taliban forces. Ahmad Massoud’s late father Ahmad Shah Massoud, widely known as the Lion of Panjshir, was the leader of the Northern Alliance, which fought against the Taliban in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Afghanistan’s political, academic, diplomatic, and cultural figures with anti-Taliban stances have rallied around the NRF and called to resist them. These groups have met in Vienna twice to remind the world of the alternative political groups to the Taliban. 

On the two-year anniversary of this crisis, Global Voices is sharing a special coverage to shed light on the plight of people in Afghanistan — particularly the women, LGBTQ+ people, and minorities who have had their rights stripped away. 

Find our stories below.

Stories about The fall of Kabul: Two years later

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