U.S. troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years in the country. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated as the fundamentalist Taliban take over, and dozens of people, including 13 U.S. service members, were killed in an attack Thursday at the Kabul airport by militant group ISIS-K.
U.S. troops are now only four days away from President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline//. Here’s what we know:
Who are the Taliban?
The word “Taliban” means “students” in Pashto, one of two official languages spoken in Afghanistan. The group was officially founded in Afghanistan in 1994.
Many of its leaders were former members of the “Afghanmujahideen,” armed rebel groups that fought in the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s against the Soviet Union and Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
The Taliban declared the country an Islamic Emirate in 1996. They adopted a punitive interpretation of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, that justified torture, mass executions and the subjugation of women. The Taliban also provided a safe haven for al-Qaida, the group that orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. forces toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, but the group is stronger now than at any point in the last 20 years, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Who pulled troops out of Afghanistan?
President Biden set an initial deadline of September 11 — the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — to fully withdraw U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. But the withdrawal was negotiated by former President Donald Trump with Taliban leaders in 2020.
Trump committed to withdrawing the remaining 13,000 troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to sever ties with Al-Qaida and stop attacks on U.S. forces.
Biden initiated the U.S. troop withdrawal on May 1. In July, troops had evacuated Bagram Airfield, the largest military installation in Afghanistan since 2001. The withdrawal deadline was moved up to Aug. 31 days later.
How many U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan?
Over 2,400 U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan through April 2021. The 13 troops who died Thursday in the terrorist attack on Kabul’s airport marked the first casualties in the country since Feb. 2020.
How many Americans are still in Afghanistan?
Contributing: The Associated Press, Donovan Slack and Dennis Wagner
Reach out to Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.