By the time Ghulam Maroof Rashid’s 50th birthday passed, he had spent more than one-third of his life fighting for the Taliban on one battlefield or another in Afghanistan. He believed they would eventually win the war but had no idea that this year would finally be its end.

"We once thought that maybe the day would come when we would not hear the sound of an airplane,” he said this month while sitting on the dusty red carpet of a governor’s compound in Wardak province. "We’ve been very tired for the last 20 years.”

In the last year of the war, the Taliban’s lightning military offensive, the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the withdrawal of the last American troops have brought about an upheaval as profound as the U.S. invasion in 2001 — two decades ago this month.