It’s been one month since the one year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

One year update on Afghanistan


Sean Asay

Idaho Air National Guard A-10’s that are based in Boise are deployed to Bagram Airbase in 2020.

Sean Asay, Photographer

With it just being one year since the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country looks much different now, as to be expected. 

The United States entered Afghanistan in 2001 to locate Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures who were linked to the September 11 attacks, as well as the Taliban who provided a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. Shortly after the attacks September 11, the United States, along with its NATO counterparts, activated NATO Article 5 for the first time in history on Sept. 12, 2022. NATO Article 5 is a collective defense operation, meaning that an attack against one ally is considered an attack against all allies, and all allies will be involved with a response. As a result of this, every country within NATO sent troops and aid to Afghanistan to form a coalition. This coalition would later grow and would then be dubbed as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF consisted of all 30 NATO countries, as well as 12 non-NATO countries that would send troops and assist with the war in Afghanistan. 

Throughout the nearly 20-year war, the United States equipped the Afghan Army with roughly 28 billion dollars’ worth of weaponry and equipment, including brand new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, attack aircraft, ground vehicles, weapons, infrastructure and many more. The United States also trained the Afghan Military to resist and defend against attacks from the Taliban. 

The United States has been trying to exit Afghanistan for quite some time now. In 2011, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but this was not successful. Former President Donald J. Trump began the initial withdrawal from Afghanistan by withdrawing 7,000 of the 14,000 troops within Afghanistan. In July 2021, just one month prior to the United States full withdrawal of Afghanistan, the United States decided to close their main operations base in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, just under 40 miles away from Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul. The United States handed over ownership of the base to the Afghan military. When the U.S. left Bagram, the Taliban knew that the Afghan military would not have the U.S. air support to defend them as they once had, and as a result the Taliban began their large-scale offensive to take over Afghanistan. The Afghan military abandoned Bagram in August of 2021 after it came under attack by the Taliban.

The International Security Assistance Force was a coalition between allied countries in Afghanistan. (Sean Asay)
The C-17 Globemaster III was used extensively during the evacuation of Afghanistan (Sean Asay)

When the Taliban entered Kabul in August 2021, the majority of the Afghan military surrendered and attempted to flee the country rather than fight the invading Taliban. On Aug. 15, 2021 the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani fled his Afghanistan, which left the country of Afghanistan without a leader and low morale. 

 “Americans shouldn’t die in a war that Afghans are not willing to fight,” said President Joseph R. Biden on Aug. 16, 2021.  

The United States began trying to finalize its withdrawal of Afghanistan, sending many cargo aircraft such as C-17 Globemaster III’s, C-130 Hercules and many other aircraft. Multiple other countries also sent military aircraft and chartered airline aircraft to Kabul to evacuate their troops. The movement of all of these aircraft was dubbed the Kabul Airlift. Whilst the United States was withdrawing our troops, the United States began many humanitarian evacuation flights to take Afghan civilian refugees. One U.S. C-17 Globemaster III evacuation flight going by the callsign “Reach 871” evacuated a record of 823 Afghan civilians from Afghanistan. There were many videos online of Afghan civilians who were not so fortunate and attempted to grab on to the outside of U.S. aircraft while they took off. The majority of these people fell off the aircraft and plummeted to their death shortly after takeoff. Many crewmembers of the U.S. aircraft later found dead bodies in the landing gear bays and other areas outside of the aircraft. The United States finalized its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 31, 2021. 

The exact number of Americans left in Afghanistan and abandoned by their own country is unknown.  

We believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave,” President Joe Biden said on Aug. 31, 2021. The Pentagon would later state that 450 Americans were left in Afghanistan after the withdrawal, with later reports stating that it’s possible that up to 9,000 Americans were left in Afghanistan. On Feb. 3, 2022, a report released by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee found that as many as 9,000 American’s could have been left in Afghanistan. This report stated that between 10,000 to 15,000 Americans were in Afghanistan during the early stages of the withdrawal, and stated that only 6,000 Americans were able to leave the country prior to the Taliban takeover.  

“Even taking the most conservative estimates from the F-77 report, this meant the United States left at least a few thousand people behind,” This is a message that was stated in the report. 

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has been met with much criticism due to how the Taliban treat women and how the government is run. Under the previous Afghan government, women had the right to education and jobs, but the new Taliban government deprived them of these rights. The new Taliban occupied Afghanistan and the future that it may hold is now called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.