A look at Afghanistan’s situation 21 years after 9/11

A team of presidential guard waiting to welcome former president Ashraf Ghani outside Afghan parliament on August 2, 2021, in Kabul.

On the 21st anniversary of 9/11 attacks that killed at least 3,000 people and was led to the United States’ military presence in Afghanistan and the topple of the Taliban regime, analysts said the incident was a turning point for the country and that more could have been achieved from the two-decade presence of the international community in the South Asian nation.

Afghanistan established a democratic government, free media, constitution, elections and parliament following Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but analysts also predict that they fear a reversal of these achievements as many have already been lost in the past year under the Taliban rule.

“Afghanistan entered a new phase after September 2001… but ultimately, after all those gains, it is going back into the situation before Sept. 2001,” said Shafiqullah Shafiq, an analyst in political affairs.

Afghanistan also established a strong private sector with investment in various areas, including education.

The country gained good progress in women’s rights and girls education. The ministry of women’s affairs was established during first years after 2001 to support the rights of women and their role in Afghanistan’s society. However, the ministry was closed after the Taliban seized power last year.

Afghanistan had a tangible progress in economy, especially in gross domestic products which increased to $20 billion in 2020 from $4 billion 2002.

A modern banking system was also established in the country. The private sector also invested in banks, restaurants, construction companies, and transportation and aviation services.

A former lecturer at Kabul University, Sayed Massoud, said the aid poured into Afghanistan after 2001 had never happened in the world and even it was more than the Marshall Plan.

“We had many achievements but we couldn’t achieve what we should have,” Massoud said. “That ideal achievement was missed due to corruption and many other issues, including neighbors interventions.”

He said that some infrastructures were built in Afghanistan in the last two decades, especially airports, dams and some businesses. Moreover, Afghanistan was enabled to produce 130 types of products, sending many of them abroad, he added.

Other major projects include the reconstruction of highways with the support of the international community, including Kabul-Kandahar, Kabul-Jalalabad and the Kabul-Mazar highways. But the roads were damaged in conflicts and roadside bombings over the past years.

However, conflicts never ended between the former government forces and the Taliban two decades after 9/11.

The two decades’ achievements were also followed by the loss of over 150,000 lives, including Afghan security force members, Afghan civilians, foreign forces and Taliban fighters.

But after the Taliban takeover, a 350-member security force and military and many national institutions were dismantled and Afghanistan’s economy went towards collapse, leaving over half of the population in hunger.

“All sectors, especially the economy, had relative progress, but most progress was in services and transportation and aviation had a good improvement,” said Azrakhsh Hafezi, an analyst in economic affairs.

Over nine million children went to schools by the end of the international community’s presence in Afghanistan in 2021 while it was significantly low in 2001. But over the past year, secondary schools are closed for girls across Afghanistan with the Taliban vowing to announce a new mechanism for their return to their classes.