A big day for Afghanistan

June 18 was a big day for the troops of Afghanistan. They are now in charge of taking care of their own country’s security, a job that has been led by NATO’s troops for over a decade. NATO’s troops will still remain in the country till the end of 2014, but as advisors and for helping out when needed. NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is a group of 28 countries from North America and Europe (see image for NATO members’ flags). These countries work together to make sure that they stay safe.

NATO’s troops came into Afghanistan to help one of its member nations, the United States, with its fight against a group called al-Qaeda and a person called Osama bin Laden (see image). Osama bin Laden was born in 1957 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His father was a very rich businessman who married over 20 times and had over 50 children. Osama is believed to be his 17th child. In 1979, Soviet Union (a country that later split into Russia and 14 other countries) attacked Afghanistan and took over the nation. Bin Laden joined the Afghan fight against the Soviets. The Soviets left Afghanistan nearly 10 years later in 1989. In the late 1980s, bin Laden created a group of fighters called al-Qaeda.

After the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, fighting broke out amongst various Afghan groups to become the leaders. In 1996, a group called the Taliban took over a large part of the country and brought an end to the fighting. They also enforced some very strict rules – women were not allowed to work outside the house, girls could not be educated, women had to be covered from head to toe in public, men had to have beards, and no one could watch movies or listen to music. People who did not follow the rules were punished harshly.

Bin Laden was upset at the United States for its presence, involvement, and influence in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia. He declared that his group would fight against the United States. In the 1990s, al-Qaeda launched some attacks on Americans in various countries. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda staged attacks in the United States, killing thousands of people.

Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were based out of Afghanistan. At the time, Afghanistan was being led by the Taliban. The Americans asked the Taliban to hand bin Laden over to them, but the Taliban refused. The United States along with some other countries attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the end of 2001, the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan and a new Afghan government was formed led by a man called Hamid Karzai (see image). The NATO forces have since been helping Afghanistan build its security force, which now consists of over 350,000 troops. The Taliban continue to fight the current Afghan government.

A popular sport played in Afghanistan is Buzkashi (see image), teams of men on horses try to get control of the body of an animal (usually a goat). Another popular game is gudiparan bazi (kite-flying), where people try to bring down other flying kites. Both these sports were not allowed during the rule of the Taliban.  Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan, and Pashto (also known as Afghani) is the official language.

Did you know?

In 2011, American troops found Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and he was killed in a battle.

Image Credits:  NATO for Karzai’s and flags’ image, PD-USGOV-MILITARY-ARMY for Buzkashi’s image, Hamid Mir for Osama’s image

Sources: http://www.nato.int/ and Al Jazeera