Afghanistan marks 10 years since US invasion

Anniversary of US-led offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaeda comes amid growing security concerns.

    Afghanistan is marking the 10th anniversary of the start of the US-led invasion of the country amid growing security concerns and questions over what the next decade will hold.

    For some Afghans, the Friday anniversary of the offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaeda marks a time of reflection on what the war has meant for their country.

    "I spent a year in the city of Kabul during the Taliban regime and they made life difficult as they banned everything. We were forced to flee the country and live in Pakistan," Abdul Saboor, a 30-year-old cook in Kabul, told the AFP news agency.

    "I was very pleased when finally the dark era of the Taliban ended in our country."

    Horia Mosadiq, a researcher for Amnesty International, said the decade since the invasion has seen improvements in access to education and healthcare, and a rise in women's participation in government, but that security and good governance remain big concerns.

    "There have been increased civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the past three years at the same time as an increased number of displaced people," she told Al Jazeera.

    As the government tries negotiate a lasting peace settlement with the resurgent Taliban, Mosadiq said, civilians worry about protecting their fragile gains.

    "Everything is happening with a huge lack of transparency ... and the biggest fear is that maybe human rights, women's rights, the Afghan constitution and freedom of expression will be traded off while they are negotiating peace with the Taliban," she said.

    On Thursday, hundreds of Afghans marched through the capital to condemn the United States as occupiers and demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops.

    About 300 men and women gathered with placards and banners accusing the United States of "massacring" civilians, while denouncing Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a puppet subservient to Washington.

    Karzai became Afghanistan's leader in June 2002, seven months after Northern Alliance forces, supported by the United States, entered Kabul and drove the Taliban government from power.  Karzai won subsequent elections in 2005 and 2009, though they were marred by fraud.

    Ousting the Taliban

    The US military launched the war in a bid to topple the Taliban for harbouring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who plotted the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and stood at the top of a network of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

    A timeline of major events since 2001

    On October 7, 2001, just under a month after the 9/11 attacks, US military planes dropped dozens of cruise missiles and laser-guided bombs on strategic targets in Kabul and other Afghan cities.

    That was followed by a ground campaign, which toppled the Taliban government within weeks.

    Taliban fighters lay dormant in Afghan and Pakistani hideouts for the next few years, severely depleted by the invasion.

    US attention then turned to the war in Iraq, but violence flared back up again around 2007 and 2008, prompting a surge in the number of troops sent to fight the Taliban.

    In advance of 2014, when those troops began to withdraw, the Taliban have increasingly focused on launching targeted attacks against foreign forces as well as the Afghan military and authorities.

    The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) argues this shows it is winning the fight on Afghanistan's battlefields.

    Figures from the United Nations indicate this year is on course to be the bloodiest yet for civilians, with 1,462 killed in the first half of this year, 80 per cent by fighters.

    ISAF insists it does all it can to minimise such deaths.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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