The collapse was always likely to be fast, but it still outstripped what most observers expected – be they experts or worried onlookers. Within a few short days, the Taliban swept through provincial cities before seizing the Afghan capital of Kabul, sparking chaotic attempts to flee the country.

Scenes of desperate people attempting to board planes leaving the country were almost unbelievable for those of us not in Afghanistan. But the fear and uncertainty are terrifyingly real for those who are there.

As shocking as the chaos may be, it’s hard to say it was a surprise, according to Abdulkader Sinno, a political scientist at Indiana University who studies politics in the region. He explains what Afghanistan was like when the U.S. first arrived there 20 years ago, describes what effects the U.S. presence had and looks at what the Afghan people are already beginning to face.

Also today:

  • How instability affects Haiti’s earthquake response
  • When it comes to the climate, small shifts matter
  • Why computers find common sense a challenge

  • Jeff Inglis

    Politics + Society Editor

    Forced from their homes by fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces, thousands of families seek refuge in a Kabul park. Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Afghans’ lives and livelihoods upended even more as US occupation ends

    Abdulkader Sinno, Indiana University

    When the US invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, Afghans had endured 22 years of war. The Taliban were on the rise. Little has changed after an additional 20 years of war and suffering.

    Ethics + Religion

    Politics + Society

    Environment + Energy



    Science + Technology

    From our international editions