BY SAMMY LIU '23
As a plane took flight from Afghanistan’s Kabul Airport, a man fell from the sky: it was Fada Mohammad. He faced an impossible decision: be subjected to a vicious terrorist group, the Taliban, or attempt to flee the country. Opting for the latter, he desperately raced towards the airport. With countless others, he swarmed the U.S. Air Force cargo transport plane, but the plane took off without allowing anyone inside. Fada and other Afghan citizens clung to the side of the aircraft, but not one of them escaped the country. Why were they pushed to such an extent?
The Afghanistan War raged for twenty years after 9/11, forcing the US to deploy troops in the country to find Osama Bin Laden and punish the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda leaders. Even after Bin Laden was killed, the US remained and even increased its military presence as domestic insurgencies arose. However, beginning on August 31st, America finally began to withdraw from the conflict-torn area, believing the war had become too expensive and unfruitful. Subsequently, the Taliban resurged and overwhelmed the Afghani government. Even though the war had been costly and the US had already accomplished its initial goal, the military pullout created disastrous effects for the Afghani people and put the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a precarious position.
The American pullout ignited fear in many Afghans’ hearts Afghans due to Taliban control, forcing thousands out of the country. Terrorist groups like the Taliban have historically been proven to be irrational actors, as they do not consider international laws and basic human rights. With complete control of the country, the Taliban can impose its ideologies upon all inhabitants of Afghanistan. Moreover, the Afghan people who had served as intelligence agents for the U.S. are in even graver danger as the Taliban seeks to exact revenge upon them. Thus, there have been public outcries for the U.S. to help evacuate Afghani citizens, and so far the United States has evacuated around 120,000 people. The other 36 million people under Taliban rule must now find their own ways to survive.
Further, the horrors in Afghanistan have weakened the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is an international organization consisting of over thirty nations, including the U.S. Its primary goal “is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means.” Member nations depend on NATO for national security, as NATO is based on the principle that an attack on one is an attack on all: any enemy attacking these countries will face the wrath of all thirty. The organization is funded proportionally by its constituent countries, and the US economy funds over 70% of NATO, so it’s considered an extension of American power. Unfortunately, NATO allies have criticized the removal of troops and point to the deterioration of Afghanistan as evidence, creating the greatest debacle NATO has faced since its founding. Furthermore, because the US withdrew due to domestic economic concerns, CNN writes that others believe that the US is still operating under an America First paradigm. These issues have contributed to the beginning of NATO’s death, as allies such as the European Union have stated that the pullout is a “catastrophe for the Afghan people [and] a failure of the Western world.” Should NATO collapse, disaster would follow; the international security organization that guarantees the safety of its allies would no longer exist, creating the possibility of nuclear weapon proliferation in self-defense.
The American pullout of Afghanistan unintentionally sparked intense instability across the country and the globe. As the Taliban took control, people everywhere could not guarantee their own safety. Despite its positive intentions, this action ultimately created an international crisis. Such an idea is applicable to all decisions: whether they be foreign policies or in our own lives, good intentions can have disastrous consequences.