The U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan officially ended in 2014. Bases were shuttered, flags were lowered. The war, to some, was officially over. And yet, it goes on.
Just a few months ago, top U.S. military commanders “were planning to pull the last American troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end.” Now, it is possible that thousands of troops could remain in the country for decades.
Daily, Afghan forces battle Taliban insurgents all over the country. Explosions in the country’s capital, Kabul, are a regular occurrence. The Islamic State, the extremist group that has seized territory in Iraq and Syria, has established an affiliate in eastern Afghanistan.
As Afghanistan creeps back into the news, here are some stories from the past year that provide a glimpse of what has happened in the war-torn land since combat operations officially ended, and how the Afghan people are adapting to a country that will likely be without peace for years to come.
“The death of Davis highlights the complicated nature of the Afghanistan war as its 15th year begins. While U.S. officials debate the merit of expanding the war against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria, Washington keeps three times as many service members in Afghanistan, with an even larger force of contractors and civilian employees assisting.”
“’We have not met the people’s expectations. We haven’t delivered,’ Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, told the high-level gathering. ‘Our forces lack discipline. They lack rotation opportunities. We haven’t taken care of our own policemen and soldiers. They continue to absorb enormous casualties.'”
“President Obama announced a significant shift to his Afghanistan exit plan…: Instead of exiting, there will now be up to 5,500 U.S troops staying in Afghanistan through at least 2017.”
“The Taliban is focusing on two provincial centers in the south, Qalat and Ghazni, according to government officials and residents in those cities. Clashes have erupted in recent days in areas surrounding Ghazni, capital of the province of the same name, and Qalat, capital of Zabul province.”
“The U.S. military, whose own account of what took place changed in the initial days after the attack, has said that the hospital was ‘mistakenly struck’ in an attempt to support Afghan security forces. But the military has declined to provide full details of the incident while its investigators examine what occurred in the worst example of errant U.S. air power in recent years.”
“The bombs were everywhere: not just on the bridges over streams but in the streams themselves. The only way to move was single-file, along a trail painstakingly cleared by a point man with the mine detector. Stepping out of line risked death or dismemberment — a popular U.S. Marine platoon sergeant lost his legs that way — and when troops came under fire, they couldn’t even roll into the nearest ditch for cover, so likely was it to be mined.”
“Jeremy Parker was a 20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal when his unit — 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines — pushed into the dusty Afghan town of Musa Qala in March 2010.The fighting, he said, was heavy at times but it was the improvised explosive devices that took their toll. ‘At one point our battalion was practically combat ineffective because every time someone left the [base] we’d lose at least one vehicle if not several,’ said Parker.”
“The next time Ali saw his daughter, in mid-November, she was lying in a coffin with her severed head stitched jaggedly back onto her neck. She and the other passengers, all ethnic Hazaras from Ghazni province, had been abducted on the highway by Taliban insurgents, held captive for 27 days and then beheaded.”