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THE BACKGROUND: For Afghanistan, 2021 was punctuated by the chaos of a U.S. withdrawal and an uncertain next chapter. The Taliban, who were unseated as the country's rulers by a U.S.-led coalition after the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago, could not be stopped by a collapsing Afghan military and Western-backed government that fled. They quickly took power back in mid-August — asked, The Associated Press has revealed, by former President Hamid Karzai to help keep Kabul from falling into chaos and deadly violence.

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