IN FOCUS Discussion: U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News/AP) – The War on Terror in Afghanistan originated after attacks on September 11, 2001 from terrorist group Al-Qaeda in New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people. During its invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. ousted the Taliban, a militant group from power after running the country in the last 1990s, but they never left.

Back in April, President Joe Biden announced that all U.S. troops would be removed from Afghanistan to end “America’s longest war” by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. But since then, the insurgents quickly captured all major cities in a matter of days and eventually gained control of the capital city of Kabul. Afghan security forces that were trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies melted away.

Thousands of people began evacuating the country, worried that Afghanistan could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against those who worked with the Americans or the government. Photos and videos of people trying to climb onto airplanes taking off the tarmac made its way around the world.

Many also fear the Taliban will reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that they relied on when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Back then, women were barred from attending school or working outside the home. They had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban banned music, cut off the hands of thieves, and stoned adulterers.

Now, the Taliban is seeking to present themselves as a more moderate force in recent years and say they won’t exact revenge, but many Afghans are skeptical of those promises. Meanwhile, Biden continued to defend his decision to withdraw U.S. troops despite criticism stemming from the scenes of chaos on the ground in Afghanistan.

Shabir Baher, a member of Utah’s Afghan community joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. He shared when he last spoke to his family who are still in Afghanistan, how they are doing, when he last visited the country before the Taliban takeover, his initial thoughts when Biden announced the U.S. withdrawal, how dangerous and ruthless the Taliban can be, whether he thought the extremist group would gain control this fast, how he’s feeling mentally and emotionally, his biggest controls about the future of Afghanistan, and what can be done at this point to help those who are in danger.

Amanullah Raheemi, board member of the Afghan American Cultural Society discussed how big our Afghan community is in Utah, the current situation in Afghanistan that he’s hearing from the news and social media, his concern for Afghan interpreters and their families, how the U.S. withdrawal is impacting the Afghan community here in Utah, his thoughts on Utah Gov. Spencer Cox offering aid to those who are fleeing Afghanistan, and how he’s thinking about the future of the country as a whole.

Prof. Amos Guiora with the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah talked about his thoughts on how fast the Taliban gained control in Afghanistan, Middle Eastern geo-politics, what he’ll be watching for in the upcoming days, and whether the Taliban can be trusted to keep their word when they say they won’t hurt anyone who has helped the U.S.

Brown University’s Cost of War project estimates the U.S. has spent nearly $2.26 trillion on this war. According to data provided by the Pentagon to the Washington Post, 775,000 U.S. service members were deployed to Afghanistan at least once between 2001 and 2019. The same research states approximately 240,000 people (Afghan civilians, Pakistani civilians, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists) have died as a result of this war.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Baher, Raheemi, and Prof. Guiora, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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