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Terror Reigns in Afghanistan: Student Perspectives of What Went Wrong

According to the Associated Press, at least 6,294 American lives have been lost in the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan, and that number continues to rise as the United States tries to evacuate the now terrorist run country.

The History 

The U.S. was involved in Afghan politics long before 9/11 when, according to the Council of Foreign Relations, the U.S. joined forces with other countries at the United Nations Security Council to create the al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee in 1999. However, the U.S.’s war against terrorism started after the 9/11 hijackers killed almost 3,000 Americans. President George W. Bush gained legislative approval on Sept.18, 2001 to use military force to snuff out the terrorist groups responsible. 

After deploying U.S. military and conducting many airstrikes, the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai and President Bush agreed to be strategic partners, to aid in protecting the Afghan people. The war escalated when President Barack Obama announced he would send “an additional 30,000 forces to the fight on top of the 68,000 in place,” according to the Council of Foreign Relations

In May 2011, the mission of holding those accountable for 9/11 was carried out with Osama bin Laden’s assasination. His death led the American public to question the need for deployment in Afghanistan according to the Council of Foreign Relations. In April 2021, President Joe Biden announced his plan to withdraw troops, 10 years after plans were first discussed. NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that the U.S.’s actions would allow for terrorists to rebuild in Afghanistan, and this warning became true as the Taliban took over Kabul and Afghan borders. The Taliban’s sudden take over forced the U.S. to send more service members to help evacuate, resulting in a Taliban surprise attack, killing 13 American military personnel and injuring more. 

President Biden’s Words

President Biden addressed Americans on Aug. 16 as the U.S. deployed 6,000 more troops. According to the White House’s transcript, he says, “We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on Sept.11, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again. We did that. Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building.”

 He says that the current situation is one that has been passed down through various presidents, and the only two choices he faced were to leave or continue fighting a war with the Taliban and draining more U.S. resources. 

President Biden admits that the fall of Afghanistan happened sooner than anticipated. He says, “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.  The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” Biden plans to continue negotiations with the Taliban and promote “that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy.”

The Student Perspective

This issue is prevalent in many University of North Georgia students’ minds and was the topic for the UNG Political Science Student Association’s Crossroad Discussion. Because the meetings are a “no judgement zone”, the names of students expressing their opinions were not shared. Many students said our failed efforts in Afghanistan were inevitable with one student saying, “We didn’t understand Afghanistan as a country. Yes, we might have the most powerful military and fair form of government, but Afghanistan is a totally different space. We did more than just try to take over the country and destroy the Taliban, we tried to create a whole new nation.”

However, some disagreed saying that it was the current presidential administration that was to blame saying, “When we pull out and our President is on vacation, where is our leadership at a time when we are ending our longest war in American history? When you have 13 service members killed in this evacuation, that can’t be politicized, American lives shouldn’t be politicized.” 

James Crisp, a senior Strategic and Security Studies major on the Dahlonega Campus, says that the U.S.’s efforts in Afghanistan shouldn’t be labeled as a failure. He says, “ The U.S. and other coalition forces’ efforts were a success in the suppression of terrorism and its effects on the world. The only failure was the withdrawal out of Afghanistan.” He says that this should be a lesson to college students everywhere that, “ they need to be aware of how easy it is for everything to be taken away from them and how much they take for granted. Someone’s entire life has now been changed for the worse and they have lost all of their belongings while stuck in a country with some of the, if not the most, harsh laws on the planet.”


Drawing by Emma Keisler
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Terror Reigns in Afghanistan: Student Perspectives of What Went Wrong