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The Legacy of the U.S. War in Afghanistan in Nine Graphics (CFR)

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The number of girls enrolled in primary school soared following the U.S. invasion in 2001.

The number of girls enrolled in primary school soared following the U.S. invasion in 2001. Javed Tanveer/AFP/Getty Images v @CFR_org

The U.S. overthrow of the Taliban regime after the 9/11 attacks ushered in a massive nation-building project. Nine graphics show what changed in Afghanistan over the past two decades.

August 17, 2021 2:25 pm (EST)

Since the U.S. invasion in 2001, Washington and its partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on Afghanistan’s reconstruction. They aimed to develop the country’s democracy, train security forces, build roads and hospitals, and expand rights for women and minority communities.

The results have been mixed. Afghans achieved greater political and media freedoms, a higher standard of living, and expanded educational opportunities for women and girls. Yet, they also suffered the disastrous consequences of a war that didn’t end: the fighting killed thousands of people and spurred a new exodus of Afghans, who by 2001 already constituted the world’s largest refugee population. 

Now, the Taliban—which gained control over significant territory in recent years—has returned to power on the heels of the United States’ withdrawal, threatening hard-won gains and increasing the likelihood of further conflict and displacement.

These graphics show how the situation in Afghanistan has improved in some ways and deteriorated in others over the past twenty years.


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