For many Afghans like Zohra Atifi, whose husband was killed under Taliban rule, the American invasion in 2001 marked a chance to start over after living under an oppressive regime.
Yet 18 years later, after the U.S. spent nearly $900 billion and more than 147,000 people died, the Taliban are growing more confident of returning to power. The militant group controls or contests half of the country, more territory than any time since they were toppled in 2001. And they’ve come close to a deal with the U.S. that could give them even more power, even after President Donald Trump abruptly put the talks on hold.
What’s worse for the U.S. and its allies: Many Afghans are growing disillusioned with the American-backed regime in Kabul and its inability, along with its foreign allies, to contain not just the Taliban but another deadly insurgent group — the Islamic State. One of Atifi’s sons was killed by IS extremists two years ago.
“The collapse of their brutal regime by the Americans once gave us a hope — a cheerful hope — that we will all again be free of fears and violence like other countries,” Atifi, 45, said at her stone house in the capital’s Kart-e-Sakhi neighborhood. “But that didn’t happen.”