The Afghan conflict ended as quickly as it had begun. The September 11 terrorist attacks prompted the United States to develop its contentious counter-terrorism policy, which included the country's longest conflict in history, the war in Afghanistan.
Twenty years later, the mountainous country tucked in Asia's heartland has come to a halt as the United States withdraws its soldiers, with the Taliban regaining the power they lost two decades ago.
Afghanistan has long been a battleground for global powers, yet it has never been conquered, earning it the title "Graveyard of Empires."
The September 11 attacks claimed some 3,000 lives, making it the deadliest attack in U.S. history.
In the capital, Kabul, there are only two kinds of people – the rich and the poor.
In decades of war and destitution, opium poppy plantation and production have become a major source of income for local farmers. "Either Afghanistan destroys opium, or opium will destroy Afghanistan," former Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said.
In the protracted war in Afghanistan, no one suffered more than Afghan civilians. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from homes with no shelter and rarely any food.
Wars after wars have made migration a norm for the Afghan people. As of 2021, Afghanistan is the third largest source of refugees in the world, with the number of Afghan refugees standing at 2.6 million. Domestically, 4 million internally displaced persons are still in temporary camps.
On April 14, Biden announced the U.S. troop withdrawal would be completed by September 11, marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the invasion. In the months that followed, the country witnessed massive chaos.
How the new Afghan government deals with the wide range of social, political, and economic issues will determine how an Afghanistan under the Taliban will be received by the Afghan people and the world.