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Understanding Afghanistan Today

Posted on August 22 2021

Understanding Afghanistan Today

Dear Educators,

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly twenty years. Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that brought down the World Trade Center in New York City, had been hiding there. He led al-Qaeda, a terrorist group that had also bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Recently, most U.S. troops have been pulled out of the country. Within days, the group known as the Taliban took over the government. The Taliban, fundamentalist Muslims, follow a strict interpretation of Sharia law. For example, women must be completely covered, must be escorted by males when they leave home, and cannot work or become educated. 

Afghanistan had already been ravaged by fighting prior to war with the U.S. The Taliban fought to remove the Russians who had run the country, and then civil war devastated the country further. The U.S. sought to eliminate the Taliban forces that had given bin Laden sanctuary, and then formed a government friendly to Western powers. Now, with U.S. protection of that government gone, the Taliban are taking over again. Afghans who aided U.S. efforts, and others who remember the Taliban's former harsh rule, are desperate to leave. The situation in Afghanistan is complicated. This week, Maps101 takes a look at this historical event as it unfolds.

Political Map

First, we need to know where Afghanistan is located. Pakistan is to its southeast, and Iran is on its west.  Its capital is Kabul. See this map for detail as to the country’s location.

VIEW THE MAP
City Map

This map shows a close-up look at Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Note the location of the U.S. Embassy there. 

VIEW THE MAP
Geography News Network

This GNN article was written in 2015 and gives a view of the war raging in Afghanistan at that time. It is a helpful reminder of what caused war there, and for understanding contemporary events, how long U.S. troops have been stationed there.

READ THE ARTICLE
Geography News Network

For more context, students may want to learn about the events that occurred on 9//11/2001. This GNN article explains what happened in America that day. It provides the reason why the U.S. sought out bin Laden and focused on Afghanistan.

READ THE ARTICLE
Geography News Network

This new GNN article delves into the issues in Afghanistan occurring today, with the Taliban taking control of the country after the drawdown of U.S. troops and their promised departure. While President Biden has authorized the removal, he inherited the original timetable from President Trump, when he was in office. The war has been going on for about 20 years. Biden has set the deadline to the end of August. Meanwhile, the Taliban, the extremist Islamic group who hid Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, have taken over, and the president of Afghanistan has fled.

READ THE ARTICLE
Map of the Week

This map shows the timeline of events during the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan under President Biden. Despite the U.S. spending about 20 years in the country assisting the government and training troops, the Taliban—an extremist Islamic group—have taken over the country, even capturing the capital city of Kabul. The U.S. first invaded Afghanistan after 9/11. Mastermind of that event, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there. President George W. Bush sent troops while he was in office. The U.S. has been there ever since, but will complete its departure under Biden’s order, by August 31, 2021.

VIEW THE MAP
SEL Activity

Forming an Opinion Have students make further connections between the events of 9/11 and the role the U.S. played in Afghanistan. Have students explain why they think the U.S. stopped fighting in Afghanistan. They may want to conduct research to support their opinion with facts. Then, discuss why the U.S.-backed government fell to the Taliban so quickly. Have students research reliable sources that address this question. What do students think?

 

SEL Activity

Empathizing With the U.S. troops gone and the Taliban taking over, numerous people from Afghanistan want to leave the country. If they are successful at leaving, they will become refugees who need to find new homes in new countries. Discuss in class what it would be like to be from Afghanistan in the midst of this turmoil. What choices do they have? What will life be like for them if they remain? Where can they go?

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