The Taliban’s capture of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 brought the hardline movement back into power in Afghanistan nearly 20 years after they were toppled by the U.S. invasion following the 9/11 attacks. The year since has been disastrous for the country.
After the world cut off funding, Afghanistan’s already ramshackle economy collapsed almost overnight, sending nearly the entire population into poverty and leaving millions unable to feed themselves. No country has yet recognized Taliban rule. After initially signaling they would be more moderate than in their previous time in power, the Taliban turned to a hard line, crushing women’s rights, allowing little criticism and imposing greater control over the press.
Here is a timeline of significant events in connection to the Taliban takeover and subsequent rule.
Feb. 29, 2020 — U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration signs an agreement with the Taliban committing to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. The Taliban promise to halt attacks on Americans. But they step up attacks on Afghan government forces, who begin to fall apart with American tactical support now reduced.
April 14, 2021 — President Joe Biden says the remaining 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn by Sept. 11 to end America’s “forever war.”
May-August 2021 — Taliban gains on the ground accelerate. Districts across the country fall to the insurgents, sometimes with hardly a fight. By mid-August, they control nearly the entire country, including most major cities.
Aug. 15, 2021 — The Taliban march into Kabul as internationally backed President Ashraf Ghani flees the country.
Aug. 16, 2021 — Thousands of civilians crowd at Kabul’s international airport, hoping to get on flights as U.S. troops and officials organize evacuation flights. In chaotic scenes, a few are seen clinging to the sides of aircraft as they take off. At least two are known to have fallen to their deaths.
Aug. 18, 2021 — At the first Taliban press conference, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid promises no reprisals against former soldiers, saying that Taliban will allow women to to work and study “but within the framework of Islam.”
Aug. 26, 2021 — Islamic State group suicide bombers and gunmen kill at least 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops in an attack on the crowds trying to be evacuated at Kabul’s airport. Several days later, a U.S. drone strike kills 10 civilians, including at seven children; the Pentagon initially insists the strike targeted the perpetrators of the airport attack but later acknowledged it was a mistake.
August — The Taliban takeover sparks the freezing of Afghanistan’s $8 billion in assets held abroad, most in the U.S. Also halted are billions in development and other aid that paid most of the government’s budget.
Almost overnight, the already tenuous economy collapses. Many Afghans lose their salaries or jobs as prices spiral. Over the next months, millions will become unable to afford food; many medical facilities will shut down, unable to afford supplies or pay staff.
September — Schools reopen around Afghanistan. Girls up through the sixth grade are allowed to return to classes, as are women in some private universities. Above sixth grade, however, girls are not allowed back, with a few local exceptions.
Sept. 7, 2021 — The Taliban announce the formation of an interim government, made up entirely of Taliban figures and men, despite international pressure for greater diversity. The Taliban hint it could be widened later to include other factions, but it has remained largely the same since.
Sept. 12, 2021 — Aid flights resume into Kabul as the U.N. revs up what will become a massive aid effort to keep Afghans alive in an accelerating humanitarian disaster. In less than a month since the Taliban takeover, the number of families reporting insufficient food consumption leaps 13 percentage points to 93% of the population, according to U.N. figures. World Food Program chief David Beasley warns that 14 million face acute food insecurity, “marching to the brink of starvation, they don’t know where their next meal is.”
Oct. 25, 2021 — Within another month, all those figures have dramatically worsened. The number of people facing acute food insecurity nearly doubles to 22.8 million from 14 million, nearly 60% of the population, the WFP says. Of those, 8.7 million are at the highest emergency level, at risk of starvation. Half of all children under five years old — around 3.2 million — are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition.
Feb. 11, 2022 — U.S. President Joe Biden issues an executive order holding half of the $7 billion in Afghan assets frozen into the United States for court cases involving victims of the 9/11 attacks. He orders the other $3.5 billion to be used for the benefit of Afghanistan; since then U.S. officials have been holding talks with the Taliban on how to use that money.
March 23, 2022 — On the day high schools are opening, the Taliban suddenly reverse a promise to allow girls above the sixth grade to attend schools. Girls who showed up for the first day of classes are told to go home. The reversal suggests hardliners among the Taliban leadership moved to prevent a return of older girls to school.
March 30, 2022 — The number of Afghans living below the poverty line is rapidly approaching 97% of the population, the head of the United Nations Development Programme Achim Steiner warns. In 2020, just under half of Afghanistan’s population lived in poverty.
May 7, 2022 — The Taliban Virtue and Vice Ministry issues orders that all women in public must wear all-encompassing robes and cover their face except for their eyes. It advises them to stay home unless they have important work outside the house.
May 9, 2022 — New U.N. report shows huge infusion of aid is just barely keeping numbers of hungry from growing further, with the number of people facing acute food insecurity at nearly 20 million. However, it warns that continued bad harvest and drought, inflation fueled in part by Ukraine conflict and lack of funding for U.N. aid threatens to increase the crisis.
June 22, 2022 — A powerful earthquake hits a remote region of eastern Afghanistan, killing more than 1,100 people. The Taliban struggle with rescue efforts, underscoring a lack of resources and a reliance on aid groups.
July 27, 2022 — Amnesty International issues a report saying Taliban policies are “suffocating” women at every level of their lives, pointing to the restrictions on schooling and work, increased child marriage and repression of women activists.
July 31, 2022 — The U.S. kills al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a drone strike on a safehouse in Kabul where he has been staying for months. U.S. officials accuse the Taliban of sheltering him in violation of the Doha Agreement.