Future Imperfect

Twenty years on, Afghanistan is still far from peace though
the U.S. is getting nowhere on the battlefield and their only
hope is the pace talks with the Taliban.

By S.G. Jilanee | March 2020

It was on October 7, 2001 that the United States invaded Afghanistan. The action was code-named, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” following the 9/11 tragedy, when the Taliban government in Afghanistan refused its demand to expel Osama bin Laden, unless the U.S. produced evidence of bin Laden’s master-minding the incident. The Taliban asked for evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 incident to consider the US request. The war has dragged on ever since. Even after 20 years there is no clear indication of peace being within reach. Ousted from power, the Taliban have been fighting all the way without betraying any sign of fatigue. Their grit and morale remains unshaken. They also have the advantage of fighting on their own turf, whereas the American troops are fighting thousands of miles away from home.

Meanwhile, “since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action,” according to US Defence Department figures. During the same period, “the Defence Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, for the war in Afghanistan. That is the tally to date. The figures, both of casualties and expenses, would pile up if the conflict goes on.

Clearly, this is America’s longest war and a purposeless one, as well. The US is keen to withdraw. Negotiations and the peace movement intensified in 2018 amid talks between the Taliban and the United States, whose 20,000 soldiers maintain a presence within the country to support the Afghan government.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan has said the peace talks have reached an “important stage” amid a renewed push to reach an agreement with the Taliban to end the war that has been raging in the country for almost 20 years.

Khalilzad called his two-day trip to Kabul, “productive”, where he met President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former President, Hamid Karzai, women’s rights activists and other political leaders and “discussed efforts to achieve reduced violence and pave the way to intra-Afghan negotiations.”

A Taliban official in Doha, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that a ceasefire in Afghanistan will come in place when an agreement is signed, referring to the deal being discussed between the US and the Taliban.

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The writer is a senior political analyst and former editor of SouthAsia. He can be reached at

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