Historic images show the centuries-long struggle for Afghanistan

Foreign empires have fought over the South Asian country; reformers and Islamists battle to remake it.

Taliban fighters seized the presidential palace on August 15, 2021, just hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. The Taliban now controls Afghanistan.
Photograph by Zabi Karimi, AP

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was shockingly swift. On April 14, President Biden announced that the United States would begin withdrawing forces in May, with all the troops out by September 11. By August 15, Taliban fighters were posing behind a massive desk at the presidential palace in Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country, the government had fallen, and the Taliban had seized control.

A look at Afghan history makes this stunning turn of events less surprising. Modernization has long clashed with Islamic conservatism and, as the British and Russians can attest, attempts to occupy and subdue Afghanistan have rarely turned out as planned. The results are often tragic, especially for the people caught in the conflict.

 

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