Afghanistan maybe half-way around the world – and seemingly on another planet – but the fact is that it matters. Since 2001 it has been a prime focal point of the western world. Responsible citizens need to know what’s happening and then respond accordingly.
After twenty years of war, engagement, and ‘nation-building,’ America and its NATO allies withdrew from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021.
We were told that now is the time.
Intelligence agencies said it would take eighteen months for Kabul to fall to the Taliban.
Only in July 2021, Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Afghan security forces had the capacity to sufficiently defend themselves. They were US/NATO-trained, possessed eighty billions of dollars worth of high quality US weaponry, and inherited two air bases in Bagram and Kandahar.
Joe Biden said that the Afghan army had 300,000 troops, highly armed, versus 75,000 Taliban. ’There is going to be no circumstance in which you are going to see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan’ and, ‘I trust the capacity of the Afghan military.’
Thus, the White House affirmed there was ‘No chance – none’ of repeating the disgraceful scene from Saigon 1975. That’s when people scampered up a ladder to a waiting helicopter on the top of the US embassy to escape the advance of the victorious communist North Vietnamese as they swept into power. It is a photo that haunts America to this day.
Yet, on August 15, 2021, while America troops were still in the country, the Taliban walked into Kabul. Earlier that day, Afghani President Ashraf Ghani fled into exile. He knew what was coming. America only had 2,500 personnel in Afghanistan when the White House announced the withdrawal; then sent 7,000 troops in to supervise it. Call it the ‘Kabul calamity’ and it spells trouble to America and the world.
Kabul collapsed into the waiting arms of the fundamentalist Islamist group called the Taliban. Disturbing scenes from Kabul Airport, the last stronghold of US presence, where desperate Afghanis were crowding at the gate to escape the advancing Taliban. More distressing, the ‘objects’ that fell from the sky were people who clung to the undercarriage of the departing plane, only to lose their grip and fall to their deaths. Or people and children trampled to death because of the crowds. Or, the tragic double-suicide bomber from ISIS-K at the gate of Kabul Airport, killing two-hundred plus, including thirteen US service members.
The Taliban (meaning ‘student’) are now in-charge of Afghanistan. They were in power once before. During their previous administration from 1996-2001, they were known for a strict, puritanical adherence to Islam, some even say a medieval version. They were particularly remembered for their opposition to girls getting educated and blowing up the two 50 metre high Bamiyan Buddhas, 1,500 years old, carved on the side of the mountain, in 2001. Reports from that period included whipping, stoning, torture, beheadings, rapes, forced marriages, girls denied schooling and work, and a return to pre-modern living.
The country will be called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Twenty years in exile has made the Taliban stronger, more determined, and supposedly more media savvy. Messages sent out include: Afghanistan will not become a terrorist haven; woman will be respected; no retribution will come to those who worked for the Allies. Sounds good. However, will that be the case? One astute expert said that the Taliban leadership may or may not have control of the various factions under its banner. The transition to full power will be bumpy and some groups are already executing ‘collaborators’ and tossing their bodies into mass graves – with or without the permission of the central authorities.
But it gets worse: the Taliban takeover gave global jihadism a major boost. Thousands of jihadi prisoners in Afghanistan have been released. Would-be jihadists from around the world maybe coming for training and support – a terrorist reunion – like they did before 9-11. Now, the Taliban has the billions of dollars of American equipment at their disposal (of course, the question is, will they know how to use them? Or how will they get them serviced and repaired?).
Can the West fight back? Yes, it can, but will be much harder, since there is no presence in the country and the neighbours aren’t friendly. Like the rise of ISIS and al Qaeda, jihadists want to export their holy war globally and establish a caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital.
China, ever ambitious, will step in and build its new ‘silk road’ westward via Afghanistan, probably through their ‘Belt and Road Initiative.’ They will gain access to Afghanistan’s resources, including the indispensable rare earth reserves, of which China has much of its own, already.
America’s final withdrawal was August 31st because that’s what the Taliban demanded – did you get that, the US took orders and complied with the Taliban?! Later, the White House declared the withdrawal ‘extraordinarily successful.’ Left behind were thousands of Afghanis who worked for the Allied Forces who rightly feared retribution and were promised help and visas by their western partners. An indeterminate amount of Americans and green card holders were also left behind, including a group of foreign exchange students.
Then there is the small but growing indigenous Afghani Christian population, many of them converts from Islam. The Taliban told them we know who you are and we are coming to get you. One Christian told his/her global friends that they would be ‘seeing Jesus’ within the next two weeks. According to Evangelist Robby Dawkins, who works with Afghan believers, that the church is strong and in no way will it be extinguished – though that does not mean the absence of suffering. The poorly planned, rapid troop withdrawal while civilians remained, meant that innocent people were left behind to face a dire fate.
So what went wrong? Plenty. In short, Afghanistan is less a unified nation than an assemblage of different tribal groups under one mountainous roof. Educational levels are very low, the economy depends on foreign-aid and growing poppies for heroin. The US-backed Afghan army, well equipped as they were, could have kept fighting if they had US military back-up. That was no longer possible after a full withdrawal. The Taliban and China were very clear in what they want but the US and the West were confused. That lack of clarity undermined the withdrawal. The US military leadership has become highly politicised and monetised, where for some of the top brass a military career is a means of getting rich than a call to national service. ’Woke warriors’ worried more about ‘white rage’ than ‘Taliban rage.’ Patriotism and national pride were decried, history revised and scorned, and democracy is more of an alliance between the permanent political class, media, and big tech. How can you win an external war when you have a war within?
Daniel Greenfield, an investigative journalist for Frontpage Magazine made these comments:
Afghanistan isn’t a country. It’s a stone age Brigadoon of quarrelling tribes, ethnic groups, Islamic denominations, and warlords manned by young men with old Russian and American rifles. Unlike the fiction of a democratic Afghanistan, that is something they will die for.
And in the coming years you will see some of those same soldiers who laid down their guns fighting and dying for tribes and warlords, even fighting the Taliban, in the real endless war.
The forever war isn’t something we invented after 9/11:Afghanistan has always been at war.
In other words, this isolated landlocked nation is in the forever war and the world powers cannot leave it alone. Out goes the West and in comes China, for now.
It is time to watch and pray for Afghanistan, especially in the areas of protection, provision, and peace:
Pray for peace and stability for the nation;
Pray for America’s civilian and military leadership for wisdom, accountability, and the right priorities;
Pray for those who want to leave to be able to do;
Pray for Afghan refugees, near and far, for protection & nurture;
Pray for the Afghan government to do what is right in God’s sight;
Pray for those foreign and Christian workers who chose to remain and serve;
Pray that the worldwide church unite in prayer for the Body of Christ in Afghanistan, that God will put his hand of protection, provision, peace, joy, and strength upon them.
 Daniel Greenfield, Afghanistan Didn’t Fall: It Never Existed – Front-page Magazine, August 17, 2021. https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2021/08/one-thing-we-never-understood-about-afghanistan-daniel-greenfield/