The price of the war was staggering. But Afghanistan’s future is more uncertain than ever.

The suicide bombing at Kabul airport on Thursday served as a deadly reminder that America is leaving a country that is unstable and insecure – the opposite of what it intended to create.

The United States invaded Afghanistan two decades ago in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and overthrew the Taliban regime after protecting Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and launching the war on terror. But just weeks before the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, Afghanistan is back in the hands of the Taliban, while extremists disrupt an already chaotic attempt to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans at risk.

The blast, which killed more than 100 civilians and 13 U.S. servicemen, underscored concerns that terrorist groups will be among the winners when America ends its longest war.

A U.S. Marine is battling with a helicopter following a helicopter crash in Main Poshteh, Afghanistan. Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

On October 7, 2001, then-President George W. Bush told the nation that its military had launched attacks on Al Qaeda’s training camps and military installations by the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

“These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base for operations and to attack the military capabilities of the Taliban regime,” he said.

Now the security vacuum that has been left behind, as US exits can not only benefit the Afghan offshoot of the terrorist group Islamic State, US officials have warned, but also Al Qaeda, which – according to the UN – maintains a presence in Afghanistan.

The blood outside Kabul airport – which neither the United States nor the Taliban were able to prevent – caused anger and concern on Capitol Hill.

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“We simply cannot strand Americans behind enemy lines in the new capital of global jihad,” Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Said in a statement following Thursday’s attack. New York Representative Carolyn B. Maloney and Massachusetts Representative Stephen F. Lynch, both Democrats, said in a joint statement that the bombing was a “tragic reminder” of how dangerous the situation still is in Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden had warned of the growing risk of a terrorist incident in recent days and argued for adhering to his deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 31 August. The Taliban has described the deadline as a “red line” that would provoke if it was crossed consequences.

The militant group captured the Afghan capital on August 15 without firing a shot after a military blitz that stunned even its own fighters.

But almost two weeks later, the Taliban have not yet formed a government, and reports of repression – as well as the violence and chaos at Kabul airport – have helped gather evidence that it is easier to take a country by force than to rule it with success.

Mohboba, 7, is standing against a gunshot wall while waiting to be seen at a health clinic in Kabul in 2002. Paula Bronstein / Getty Images file

Last week, the group’s fighters suppressed widespread protests amid warnings that Afghanistan’s already weakened economy could crumble further without the massive international aid that backed the ousted US-backed government. Meanwhile, a pocket of resistance has emerged in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, where a small armed force has vowed to confront the Taliban.

Two Taliban leaders admitted to NBC News that they believed the group had messed up parts of its takeover of Afghanistan.

The biggest blunder, they said, was to release prisoners from prisons as they swept across the arid mountainous country, and the released believed to include hardcore ISIS commanders, trainers and bombers.

“They were very trained people and they are organizing now,” Taliban leaders said.

A US Marine is trying to communicate with some Afghan girls during a village medical investigation in Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2010.Paula Bronstein / Getty Images file

The Taliban are not friends of ISIS, and the two groups are pushing their respective agendas. The Taliban are primarily Pashtun nationalists who want to rule Afghanistan, while ISIS wants to create an Islamic state that includes, but is not limited to, Afghanistan.

Although a US-led coalition successfully eliminated ISIS territorial gains in Iraq and Syria, there is concern among countries that foreign terrorist fighters from this region could move to Afghanistan if the environment there becomes more hospitable to ISIS or groups that are on line with Al Qaeda, according to a UN report from the end of last month.

In contrast, the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain close to each other and show no signs of breaking ties, according to a separate UN report from June.

As part of the Doha Agreement signed by the Trump administration and the Taliban in February 2020, the militants agreed not to allow any of their members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use Afghanistan’s land for to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.

President Joe Biden walks through Arlington National Cemetery to honor fallen veterans of the Afghan conflict in Arlington, Va., In April. Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images file

The June UN report says Al Qaeda’s short-term strategy is being considered to maintain its traditional safe haven in Afghanistan, but notes assessments that have suggested a more long-term strategy of “strategic patience” before attempting to plan attacks. towards international goals again.

“This scenario is untested in relation to declared Taliban commitments to ban such activities,” the report said.

That will be the case soon, however, as the United States is set to complete its withdrawal by Tuesday.

The day the United States completes its withdrawal will be a solemn day. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict, and about $ 2.3 trillion has been spent, according to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

Like the future of Afghanistan, it is still unclear whether the conflict was worth the price.

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