Back to the Past: How Taliban Rule Has Wiped Out Afghanistan’s Gains and Provided Haven for Terrorists - HS Today (2023)

When U.S. troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan and the Taliban took over the government, world leaders and others braced themselves for what the future might hold for Afghanistan and its citizens. Many feared the worst, and the Taliban did not disappoint. It claimed to have reformed its ways but, with a long history of a radical religious ideology, sectarian politics, government corruption, and participation in proxy wars and armed insurgencies, skeptics were not convinced that the terrorist group had changed its ways. Their skepticism was justified.

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan was part of an agreement that then-President Donald Trump had negotiated with the Taliban in February 2020 but was not carried out until August 2021 under the presidency of Joe Biden, thus ending what Biden described as “America’s longest war.” The troop withdrawal empowered the Taliban. The Afghan army, however, failed to develop an effective counterattack and ultimately surrendered to the Taliban. While it has been more than a year since the Taliban returned to power, the United States and its Western allies refuse to recognize the Taliban regime. This article examines the impact of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on domestic and regional issues.

Domestic Issues

The resumption of Taliban rule in Afghanistan has halted progress on domestic issues and, in some cases, turned back the clock to a more repressive era in the country’s history. Most affected are issues related to the economy, women’s rights, opium cultivation, civic space, and ethnic tensions.

(Video) How the Taliban seized Afghanistan again - BBC News

The Economy

Afghanistan’s economy was already deteriorating before the Taliban took over the country. A severe drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, large military expenditures, human and capital flight, and Taliban advances on the battlefield had impacts over the country’s economy. Immediately after the Taliban regained power, it cut off more than $8 billion per year in civilian and security aid – an expenditure that accounts for 40 percent of the country’s GDP. Western and other countries imposed economic sanctions on the government and froze the country’s foreign-exchange reserves, foreign banks refused to do business with companies in Afghanistan, and the international community suspended financial assistance to Afghanistan and implemented international economic restrictions, such as banning trade with Afghanistan. The disruption of trade sparked an economic crisis in the country. The cost of goods increased drastically, as did the rate of inflation. After the United States imposed economic sanctions on the Taliban, the Taliban successfully sought help from Russia and China. In September 2022, the Taliban finalized its first international deal with Russia to supply wheat, gas, gasoline, and diesel.

The aid was needed, as the Afghan economy has shrunk by 20 percent to 30 percent since the Taliban takeover in August 2021. A significant number of people lost their jobs and their livelihoods, and poverty and hunger have increased significantly. As a result of the economic crisis, 90 percent of Afghans now live below the poverty line. The increase in the poverty rate has forced thousands of families to migrate to neighboring countries for better economic opportunities. Those families and individuals who did not leave Afghanistan face a future marked by hunger, food insecurity, and a crisis in health care. Unfortunately, the Taliban has not been completely transparent with the public on the government’s budget expenditures but apparently has allocated large amounts of government funds to the security sector and other Taliban priorities, such as efforts to control the foreign-exchange market.

Women’s Rights

The Taliban continues to oppress women in continuation of a stance it took while ruling the country in 1996. Once again – despite assurances from the Taliban that it had changed its ways – Afghan women are being deprived of their rights to education, to work, and to participate in political affairs or serve as representatives in governing bodies. The Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs was dissolved. Girls are prohibited from attending school after the sixth grade. Women are required to cover their faces in public. Women no longer have independent freedom of movement and may leave their homes only in cases of necessity. By enforcing unreasonable restrictions on women, the Taliban is committing human rights violations.

(Video) The Taliban, explained

Opium Cultivation

Opium production has long been a major issue in Afghanistan. According to the United Nations, the Taliban launched a fierce campaign and destroyed cropland when it ruled the country in the late 1990s. The NATO-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, however, presented opportunities for many farmers who returned to growing poppies. Over the 20 years of a U.S. presence in Afghanistan, the United States spent $8 billion to control opium production – without achieving the expected results. Instead, the opposite occurred. Opium production continued to increase. In 2021, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported enough hectares were planted with poppies to enable the production of up to 650 tons of heroin – up from the roughly 590 tons of heroin produced in 2020. In April 2022, the Taliban announced a ban on opium; however, it is not clear that such a ban will stop opium cultivation and the production of heroin. Afghan criminal groups are already networked to global criminal groups, such that almost 80 percent of the heroin produced in the country has been transferred to destination countries in Europe through the northern trafficking route that passes through Central Asian countries or through the Balkans route that passes through Iran, Turkey, and the Balkans countries.

It should be noted that the methamphetamine industry is growing in Afghanistan. Since 2017, hundreds of methamphetamine labs have appeared, and the number of such labs continues to increase amid the ongoing economic crisis in Afghanistan. The Taliban also issued a ban on growing, producing, and distributing methamphetamine; however, most observers are doubtful that the Taliban enforce the ban, given that the cash-strapped government desperately needs the methamphetamine market to generate revenue after being cut off from legitimate financial systems. Furthermore, 10 percent (an estimated 3.5 million people) of the Afghan population is addicted to drugs. The Taliban, however, is incapable of providing health care for these people and instead rounds them up and sends them to prison-like addiction-treatment centers. It is conceivable, therefore, that the drug-related bans will yield the results the Taliban wants in terms of controlling and eliminating drug issue in the country.

Civic Space

Civic space, defined as “the set of legal, policy, institutional, and practical conditions necessary for non-governmental actors to access information, express themselves, associate, organize, and participate in public life,” was dealt a harsh blow after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The country now faces a significant deterioration in human rights and a stark humanitarian crisis. Human rights defenders are exposed to systematic intimidation, and a significant number of these individuals have been abducted or attacked. The Taliban has reacted harshly to protests and has used excessive force to disperse crowds, resulting in the killing or wounding of peaceful protesters. In response to an ongoing financial crisis, the Taliban shut down five key government departments, including the country’s human rights commission, in May 2022. According to the Amnesty International Report 2021/22: The State of the World’s Human Rights, “parties to the conflict in Afghanistan continued to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, and other serious human rights violations and abuses with impunity” to the extent that indiscriminate and targeted killings have reached record levels. Reprisal killings flooded the country after the Taliban takeover, and thousands of individuals, mainly Shia Hazaras, were forcibly ousted from the country. Civilian casualties in the first five months of 2021 totaled more than 5,000 and more than two-thirds of those deaths were attributed to the Taliban. The Taliban also maintained its rigid stance against the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) community and continued to criminalize same-sex relationships.

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Ethnic Tensions

The Taliban has failed to acknowledge that Afghanistan is a multiethnic country with tribal and ethnolinguistic allegiances and that government-led efforts are needed to unify the Afghan people. Instead, the Taliban shows favoritism toward rural Pashtuns who had been deprived of developmental opportunities under the former Afghan government. The Pashtuns’ grievances against the state enabled the Taliban to expand its presence in Pashtun-dominated areas of Afghanistan. The close relationship between the Taliban and rural Pashtuns should not be surprising, given that the Taliban are predominately Pashtuns. Opposition to the Taliban government comes, as one might expect, from non-Pashtun ethnic groups residing in Afghanistan. Ethnic Uzbeks and Hazaras, for example, launched the National Resistance Front to voice their disdain for the Taliban government. Ethnic grievances against the government are problematic because they provide ISIS-K with opportunities to recruit non-Pashtuns, such as Tajik and Uzbek fighters.

Regional Issues and Terrorism

The Taliban’s takeover of the country has presented opportunities for terrorist groups that have operated in the region to flourish.


The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) is an affiliate of the ISIS terrorist organization that operates in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. ISIS-K, which adheres to a jihadist-Salafism ideology and aims to establish a worldwide caliphate, poses a security threat to the Taliban and the entire Afghan nation. Since 2015, the Taliban and ISIS-K have clashed numerous times. The inevitable conflict between the Taliban and ISIS-K is about power. While the goal of ISIS-K was to establish a worldwide caliphate, the Taliban sought to establish an emirate within Afghanistan. ISIS-K’s immediate objective, however, is to wage an insurgency against the Taliban and weaken it. After the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan, ISIS-K gained great strength in the country because the group was no longer targeted by international forces and the former Afghan military. ISIS-K has repeatedly demonstrated its strength by successfully carrying out major attacks, including numerous high-level attacks against the Shia community in Afghanistan.

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Al-Qaeda has praised the Taliban for taking over Afghanistan and views the action as a victory against the Western world. In the end, whether intended or not, Afghanistan has become a haven for al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda supports the Taliban leadership and is pleased to again have a base in the country. After the Taliban regained power, Ayman al-Zawahiri returned to Afghanistan with his family. In July 2022, the United States targeted al-Zawahiri’s safehouse with a drone strike and killed him. A senior administration official familiar with the U.S. counterterrorism operation revealed during a White House teleconference that senior Haqqani Taliban members were well informed regarding al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul. The Associated Press, meanwhile, has reported that the safehouse in which al-Zawahiri was residing while he was targeted is owned by a top aide to Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. The presence of al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan clearly shows that the Taliban violated the February 29, 2020, Doha peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

TTP is a jihadist group that shares an ideology with the Afghan Taliban. TTP operates on the Pakistan side of the Durand Line, the 1,640-mile land border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both the Afghan Taliban and the TTP do not recognize the Durand Line as legitimate and seek to claim the area as Pashtunistan. The inhabitants of Pashtunistan are “fiercely independent” ethnic Pashtuns – 12 million on the Afghan side and 27 million on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. Pashtunistan also is a hiding place for leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The TTP is an ally of both al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. The leader of the TTP, Noor Wali Mehsud, has pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban. After taking over Kabul city, the Taliban released all the TTP prisoners in Afghanistan. With the Taliban in power, TTP members are freely operating from Afghanistan.

The informal Pakistan-Taliban alliance is far-reaching and goes beyond the goal of creating a Pashtunistan. Without the help of Pakistan, for example, the Taliban could not have defeated the Afghan military. Pakistan’s financial and material support of the Taliban is an open secret, though Pakistan outwardly downplays the consequences of supporting the Taliban. After the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, terrorist incidents in Pakistan increased drastically. The success of the Afghan Taliban has encouraged non-state actors in Pakistan to pursue their objectives. Both the TTP and Baloch separatist groups have intensified their attacks in Pakistan.

(Video) Has the Taliban kept its promises in Afghanistan? | Inside Story

The Taliban has been mediating the ongoing peace talks between Pakistani officials and the TTP in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s willingness to conduct peace talks with the TTP has exposed its weakness. The TTP’s two primary demands pertain to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in northern Pakistan, which became a haven for several militant Islamist groups, including theTalibanin neighboringAfghanistan,since the United States invaded the country in 2001. The TTP is demanding that Pakistan reduce its security forces in the FATA and separate the FATA from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. If Pakistan fulfills the TTP’s demands, both the TTP and the Afghan Taliban will gain great strength on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This outcome, in turn, would empower the Afghan Taliban to expand its region because the Taliban does not accept the Durand Line. Therefore, Pakistan would never agree to these demands. In the peace negotiations, the TTP agreed to an indefinite ceasefire. At the beginning of September 2022, however, the TTP ended the ceasefire and expressed disappointment in Pakistan’s lack of effort in pursuing a successful negotiation.

To conclude, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has placed the United States in a challenging position in that it can neither abandon nor recognize the Taliban leadership. If the United States acknowledges the Taliban leadership, then it sets a precedent and encourages other jihadist groups to use Taliban’s model to achieve their goals. If the United States abandons the Taliban, then al-Qaeda and ISIS-K will gain power and use Afghan soil to carry out attacks. Under the dystopian rule of the Taliban, two decades of socioeconomic and political gains have vanished and Afghanistan is once again a haven for terrorists.


What is the Taliban doing right now? ›

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021, twenty years after their ouster by U.S. troops. Under their harsh rule, they have cracked down on women's rights and neglected basic services.

How did the Taliban gain power over Afghanistan? ›

The Taliban found a foothold and consolidated their strength in southern Afghanistan. By 1994, the Taliban had moved their way through the south, capturing several provinces from various armed factions who had been fighting a civil war after the Soviet-backed Afghan government fell in 1992.

In what ways did the Taliban government of Afghanistan raise conflicts with Western modern ideas after it took control of the country in 1996? ›

In what ways did the Taliban government of Afghanistan raise conflicts with Western/modern ideas after it took control of the country in 1996? They imposed extremely strict laws and hurt many people physically. Men were beaten and women were hanged. They banned western ideas because they wanted to be religious/pure.

What human rights did the Taliban take away? ›

They have prohibited women from traveling or going to their workplace without a male family member accompanying them – an impossible requirement for almost all families – and barred them from many jobs.

What has happened since the Taliban took over? ›

The previous Taliban regime, in the 1990s, severely curtailed women's freedom - and since the takeover of power by the Taliban last year, a series of restrictions have been re-imposed on women in Afghanistan. Regulations on clothing and laws forbidding access to public areas without a male guardian have been enforced.

What human rights have been violated in Afghanistan? ›

Erosion of women's rights

Women and girls have seen their rights to access education, the workplace and participate in public life, restricted. Not allowing girls to go to secondary school means that a generation of girls will not complete their full 12 years of basic education, UNAMA highlighted.

What's the Taliban's main goal? ›

The promise made by the Taliban - in Pashtun areas straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan - was to restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law, once in power. From south-western Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly extended their influence.

Why did the United States invade Afghanistan in 2001? ›

The United States went to Afghanistan in 2001 to wage a necessary war of self-defense. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked our country. They were able to plan and execute such a horrific attack because their Taliban hosts had given them safe haven in Afghanistan.

What are the solutions for Afghanistan crisis? ›

International actors must actively engage and invest in Afghanistan's private sector to build trust, encourage risk-taking, and stimulate in-country financial transactions. The private sector is currently enabled by comfort letters and general licenses issued by governments which serve as sanctions exceptions.

Why did Taliban ban education? ›

The decision to shut down girls' secondary education came as members of the Taliban's interim cabinet met in the southern city of Kandahar to plot a course to diplomatic recognition, which could bring much-needed funding to alleviate Afghanistan's economic collapse and widespread poverty and hunger.

What caused the crisis in Afghanistan? ›

How is the economic crisis causing the humanitarian crisis? The root causes of Afghans' loss of access to food, water, shelter, and health care are almost all economic: millions of dollars in lost income, spiking prices, and the collapse of the country's banking sector.

How does the Taliban treat females? ›

Women were brutally beaten, publicly flogged, and killed for violating Taliban decrees. Even after international condemnation, the Taliban made only slight changes. Some say it was progress when the Taliban allowed a few women doctors and nurses to work, even while hospitals still had segregated wards for women.

Can girls go to school in Afghanistan? ›

After the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, they shut down schools for girls over 6th grade, effectively barring women from getting an education.

What punishments did the Taliban use? ›

In the '90s under this severe interpretation of Sharia Law, the 90% of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan saw punishments for crimes range from “public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers, and amputations for those found guilty of theft”.

What did the Taliban destroyed in Afghanistan? ›

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — The Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in early 2001 shocked the world and highlighted their hard-line regime, toppled soon after in a U.S.-led invasion.

How did the Taliban lose in 2001? ›

In October 2001, U.S. and allied forces invaded the country and quickly ousted the Taliban regime following its refusal to hand over terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks.

Do Taliban support women's rights? ›

Taliban violating women's rights with unparalleled severity

In spite of their initial promises to respect women's rights within Sharia law, the Taliban issued decrees that prevent women and girls from exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression, liberty and education.

Do children have rights in Afghanistan? ›

The child has a right to be protected against all forms of economic exploitation and protected against forced and heavy labor.

Can citizens of Afghanistan leave? ›

Those who leave Afghanistan can register for international protection and assistance as a refugee with the government of the country they are in if the country has an established asylum process, or they can register with the UN Refugee Agency.

Is Afghanistan still ruled by Taliban? ›

It ruled approximately three-quarters of the country from 1996 to 2001, before being overthrown following the United States invasion. It recaptured Kabul on 15 August 2021 after nearly 20 years of insurgency, and currently controls all of the country, although its government has not yet been recognized by any country.

Why did the US want to overthrow Taliban? ›

In late 2001, the United States and its close allies invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government. The invasion's aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda, which had executed the September 11 attacks, and to deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban government from power.

Who won Afghanistan war? ›

The nearly 20-year-long conflict ultimately ended with the 2021 Taliban offensive, which overthrew the Islamic Republic, and re-established the Islamic Emirate. It was the longest war in the military history of the United States, surpassing the length of the Vietnam War (1955–1975) by approximately six months.

Who started war in Afghanistan? ›

In 2001 an international coalition led by the USA invaded Afghanistan to destroy terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda when the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.

Why did US pull out of Afghanistan? ›

Bush and Barack Obama regarding his decision to withdraw. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the decision was made in order to refocus resources on countering China and the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is being done to help Afghanistan? ›

Since the Taliban seized power in August 2021, the United States has pledged some $775 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan—including $55 million recently announced for earthquake relief and recovery efforts.

What is the issue in Afghanistan now? ›

Today, under the Taliban government, which is not recognized by a single country, Afghanistan is facing twin economic and humanitarian crises while the marginal gains made on women's rights have all but evaporated.

How can we help Afghanistan right now? ›

Make a donation

Your support matters. While conditions are fraught, UNHCR is staying to help Afghan women, children and men. Teams are delivering relief to as many people as they can safely reach and will continue to do so. Donations are urgently needed to help displaced Afghans.

Why do Taliban not allow girls education? ›

25, 2021. Schools in Afghanistan are closed to girls beyond sixth grade. The Taliban have portrayed their leader's ban on secondary education for Afghan women and girls as based in religious principles, but Muslim scholars and activists say gender-based denial of education has no religious justification.

Does Taliban allow girls education? ›

Afghanistan: UN repeats call for Taliban to allow girls full access to school. A thirteen-year-old girl studies at home in Kabul after the Taliban announced that schools would not reopen for Afghan girls in grades 7-12.

How many schools did the Taliban destroy? ›

The Taliban destroyed more than 400 of the 1,576 schools in Swat.

Why is Afghanistan important to the world? ›

Afghanistan also served as the source from which the Greco-Bactrians and the Mughals, among others, rose to form major empires. The various conquests and periods in both the Iranian and Indian cultural spheres made the area a center for Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and later Islam throughout history.

Did NATO invade Afghanistan? ›

NATO Allies went into Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, to ensure that the country would not again become a safe haven for international terrorists to attack NATO member countries.

What rules did the Taliban enforce? ›

In 1996, the Taliban declared an Islamic Emirate, imposing a harsh interpretation of the Quran and enforcing it with brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions. And they strictly curtailed the role of women, keeping them out of schools.

What are rules for girls in Afghanistan? ›

In May, the Taliban decreed that women must cover their faces in public and instructed them to remain in their homes except in cases of necessity. Women are banned from travelling long distances without a male chaperone, and unchaperoned women are increasingly being denied access to essential services.

Are there condoms in Afghanistan? ›

Some mullahs in Afghanistan are distributing condoms. Others are quoting the Quran to encourage longer breaks between births.

Why can't girls study in Afghanistan? ›

Only 16 per cent of Afghanistan's schools are girls-only, and many of them lack proper sanitation facilities, which further hinders attendance. Certain sociocultural factors and traditional beliefs also undermine girls' education. Girls continue to marry very young – 17 per cent before their 15th birthday.

What is punishable by death in Afghanistan? ›

Capital offences

Adultery. Fornication (females only) Murder. Apostasy.

What is not allowed in Afghanistan? ›

It is forbidden to seek to convert Muslims to other faiths. You are not allowed to use, or bring into the country narcotics, alcohol or pork products. Photographing government or Taliban buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed and may lead to detention.

What sport did the Taliban ban? ›

They specifically listed cricket as being banned by this group. The network quoted deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission Ahmadullah Wasiq saying: "In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this.

Is the Taliban still active? ›

It ruled approximately three-quarters of the country from 1996 to 2001, before being overthrown following the United States invasion. It recaptured Kabul on 15 August 2021 after nearly 20 years of insurgency, and currently controls all of the country, although its government has not yet been recognized by any country.

Who funds Taliban now? ›

The group drew financial support from various actors, within and outside the state, and research by Gateway House shows four major sources of funding for the Taliban – the revival of opium cultivation, and its global sales; mining; extortion and illegal taxation; donations.

Does the Taliban have an army now? ›

The Armed Forces of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Pashto: د اسلامي امارت وسله وال ځواکونه), also referred to as the Islamic Emirate Armed Forces, is the military of Afghanistan, ruled by the Taliban government from 1996 to 2001 and since August 2021.

What is the current situation in Afghanistan 2022? ›

Afghans also remain at a heightened risk of terrorist attacks, such as the August 2022 bombing of a mosque and September 2022 bombing of the Russian Embassy, both in Kabul, allegedly perpetrated by the Islamic State.

Does Afghanistan have oil? ›

With hydrocarbon-rich Iran and Turkmenistan to its west, Afghanistan harbours around 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and another 500 million barrels of natural gas liquids.

What is the main source of income in Afghanistan? ›

Agriculture and livestock. Agriculture remains Afghanistan's most important source of employment: 60-80 percent of Afghanistan's population works in this sector, although it accounts for less than a third of GDP due to insufficient irrigation, drought, lack of market access, and other structural impediments.

What was the real purpose of the Afghanistan war? ›

The United States went to Afghanistan in 2001 to wage a necessary war of self-defense. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked our country. They were able to plan and execute such a horrific attack because their Taliban hosts had given them safe haven in Afghanistan.

What weapons does the Taliban use? ›

The focus is on small arms and light weapons (SALW)4 such as assault rifles, pistols and machine-guns, as well as handheld interagency identity detection equipment (HIDE), heavy weapons and military equipment such as missiles, aircrafts, helicopters and armoured vehicles.

How much money does Taliban have? ›

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year alone, the Taliban raked in $1.6 billion from a wide variety of sources. Most notably, the Taliban earned $416 million that year from selling opium, over $400 million from mining minerals like iron ore, marble and gold, and $240 million from donations from private donors and groups.

Who trained the Taliban army? ›

Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, was trained by the ISI during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s.


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