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.