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Afghanistan ’11, featuring US and Taliban forces, removed from App Store

According to publishers, killing the enemy ‘is not the main focus of the game’

U.S. Army Conducts Operations In Eastern Afghanistan
U.S. Army mortar men from the 2-27th Infantry Regiment fire mortars at a Taliban position on Sept. 2, 2011, at Observation Post Mustang in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
John Moore/Getty Images
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The war in Afghanistan has stretched on for 17 long years. Action against the Taliban has embroiled generations of United States servicemembers, becoming at once a modern conflict and a historical one. Among the very best ways to learn about that war is through Slitherine’s well-regarded strategy game Afghanistan ’11.

Unfortunately, Apple has elected to remove that title from the App Store. In an email sent to Slitherine, the software and hardware giant called out the game for depicting “a specific government or other real entity as the enemies.” The game was delisted the same day.

Apple’s decision, which comes more than one year after the game went on sale for iOS devices, came as a shock to its publishers.

“Historical rigour is a fundamental key of Slitherine and Matrix Games DNA,” wrote Paulo Paglianti, Slitherine’s global public relations manager, in an email to Polygon. “We never portrayed an ‘enemy’ for its [ethnic] origin. Our [games] are based on history and we always try and depict realistic historical situations.”

Making the decision even more incongruous is the fact that the intent of the game is not to destroy enemy forces, but to strategically support Afghan civilians. Here’s Paglianti:

Afghanistan ’11 is probably the only wargame ever produced where killing the enemy is not the main focus of the game. The real objective for the player is to charm and help the Afghani civil population, persuading the local leaders to support the U.S. military and reject the Taliban overlords. Actually, the counter insurgency engine works exactly like in real life’s ‘Hearts and Minds’ military strategy: killing the enemy takes you nowhere, while building water resources or dismantle minefields is the way to ‘win’ each scenario and the full campaign. Indeed, the main goal of the campaign is to build a strong and independent Afghanistan government, and leave the country with all your army.

Polygon has reached out to Apple for comment.

This isn’t the first time that Apple has elected to remove historical wargames from its storefront. In 2015, the company chose to suspend the sale of Civil War games featuring the battle flag of the Confederate States of America. Titles such as Ultimate General: Gettysburg were eventually reinstated.

It’s also unclear why Apple elected to single out a game featuring U.S. forces and the Taliban. Other historical wargames featuring real-life combatants that are still on the App Store include:

Afghanistan ’11 is still available for other platforms, including Windows PC via Steam.