(NewsNation/AP) — It’s been one year since the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, reclaiming power from the Western-backed government that ran the country since a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the insurgents from power.
The Taliban stormed across the country, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies melted away.
It was not supposed to end that way.
The Taliban seizure was less than three weeks before the U.S. hoped to complete a withdrawal of troops stationed in the country in what President Joe Biden called an “orderly and safe drawdown” of American and allied personnel.
The deadline for troops to leave was set by Biden, fulfilling an agreement reached with the Taliban by his predecessor Donald Trump to end the costly two-decade war.
The administration’s plan was to keep the U.S. Embassy in Kabul open, protected by a force of about 650 U.S. troops, including a contingent that would secure the airport along with partner countries.
But having failed to anticipate that the Taliban would advance so quickly, Washington and its NATO allies were forced into a hasty and deadly evacuation.
They left behind thousands of Afghans who helped Western countries and might have qualified for evacuation but did not make it out in time.
Fearing for the future, many raced to the airport, scenes showing Afghans hanging from the landing gear of airplanes attempting to take off.
America’s longest war came to an end when the last plane carrying troops and evacuees exited Afghanistan’s air space.
Afghans worried that the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against those who worked with the Americans or the government.
Many also feared the Taliban will reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
In the year since the takeover, the former insurgents have imposed significant restrictions on girls and women, limiting their access to education and work, despite initial promises to the contrary.
The Taliban have remained internationally isolated and largely cut off from the flow of international aid and have struggled to govern and halt the sharp economic decline that has pushed millions more Afghans into poverty and even hunger.
In June, a devastating earthquake killed more than 1,000 people in the eastern part of the country.
The disaster ignited yet another crisis for the struggling country and further underscored the Taliban’s limited capabilities.
It only took a few months for the head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to take up residence in Kabul.
Al-Zawahiri was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. He succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda and was a key planner in the 9/11 attacks.
Al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike conducted by the Biden administration last month.
Despite those challenges, the Taliban-led government planned several events Monday to mark the anniversary, including speeches by Taliban officials and several sports events.