Sixteen years on, the people of Afghanistan are more frustrated, believing the invasion has led to global extremism. They have lost all hope of US and NATO troops bringing back peace and stability.
“There is no doubt that we have had some gains since the US came to Afghanistan, but those gains are minimal compared to what we have lost. People no longer welcome the US and NATO troops, as they have failed to bring them security,” Saleh Mohammad Saleh, a member of Parliament’s upper house from eastern Kunar province, told Arab News.
“America has not even implemented 10 percent of what it promised. The US war in Afghanistan has caused radicalism and also led to a rise in antagonism against our government in the region.”
Saleh said people in his constituency ask him “for how long they have to suffer and sacrifice; for who, and why?”
More than 30,000 Afghans have been killed and more than 40,000 injured in the conflict since 2001. At least 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes during America’s longest war, which has cost it nearly $1 trillion and more than 2,400 dead.
There is also an immense psychological impact of the war on the impoverished country that has been used as a battleground by invaders from both the former Soviet Union and the US-led coalition.
Despite the local populace expressing resentment over the US presence in Afghanistan, people did not take to the streets in big numbers to protest on the anniversary of the invasion. A small protest was organized by a group called Solidarity Party of Afghanistan on Friday in Kabul, to condemn the invasion and to push for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
“In the presence of the US, NATO and their minions, there will be no peace and prosperity in Afghanistan,” the group said. The protesters shouted: “No to occupation.”
“The number of people who took part was low, but the messages and emails that we got were very warm and positive. People appreciated what we do and said that we exhibit how they feel about the invasion. The people mostly said that peace will not return to Afghanistan with the US presence,” Obaid Kabir, a member of the group, told Arab News.
Sediqa Mubarez, an MP from Wardak province, said Afghans were “generally unsatisfied.”
“The situation has become much worse in terms of security with the arrival of the Americans. The fact that we have it has caused far more negative things than positive.”
Opium production fell to almost zero immediately after the invasion, but it returned to normal within a year and has steadily increased since, reaching record levels. The crime rate has also increased significantly, particularly in the capital, Kabul.
However, the US presence has also brought unprecedented liberty, especially for women who now have the chance to work and study again, with a vibrant press, Mubarez said.
The Taliban, who lead the insurgency against the US troops and the Afghan government, said they would continue fighting until the occupation ended and further prolongation of the war would harm more Americans.
“The main cause of this war is the arrogant US policy of enslaving and occupying other countries... and resultantly, the US also burns in the same fire it put on for others,” the militant group said.