Taliban takes over Afghanistan: What is happening is a crisis on many fronts that shouldn’t be ignored.
If you have been paying attention to the news lately, then you would know that a potentially history-altering event has just occurred. On Monday, the Taliban took control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and effectively the entire country. This then caused hundreds of thousands of Afghans to flee the country for safer shores. Scenes of hundreds of people clinging on to departing airplanes made their way all over social media as one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the year just happened in an instant.
But if you’re thinking: “why you should care” or “why this should affect me” since you live far from Afghanistan, do realize that the political and humanitarian consequences of this won’t just be felt in Afghanistan, but all over the world. So many factors are involved in what is currently happening but at the center of the issue is the people caught as collateral damage. Remember, lives are at stake here. Putting the crossfire of rage, fear, despair, as well as of a sense of abandonment, in perspective, and to further understand what is happening in Afghanistan, let’s first rewind to how we got to this situation in the first place.
The Taliban is an ultra-fundamentalist militant group that controlled most of Afghanistan during the late 90s until 2001. The Taliban practiced and promoted an ultra-extremist version of Islam that was particularly harmful to human rights and women’s rights. In 2001, terrorist group al-Qaida bombed the Twin Towers in New York City, an event that will forever be known as 9/11. At the time, al-Qaida was based in Afghanistan and the Taliban government refused to hand over al-Qaida’s leadership to the US. This then caused a coalition of countries, led by the US, to invade Afghanistan and root out al-Qaida.
This wasn’t the first time Afghanistan was invaded by a foreign country though as the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1984. But they failed to conquer the country because of the mujahideen, the predecessors and even founders of the Taliban we know today. It should be noted that this was during the Cold War, therefore the US got involved and supported the mujahideen by, among other things, giving them weapons to fight the Soviets. So the US played a part in how the Taliban became what they are now and the Taliban turned on the US.
During the US’s 20-year occupation, they also installed a government and a president, Ashraf Ghani, so that the country could return to a sense of democracy. They also helped train Afghan forces to fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. At first, it seemed that the US was winning, but that winning streak was short-lived. Afghanistan, geographically, is a hard country to control. It was like playing a game of whack-a-mole where they would hit one group, and another would pop up. Eventually, the US decided that the war in Afghanistan was too expensive and too many lives were being sacrificed.
In 2019, the US government signed a deal with the Taliban that the US would pull out all its troops from the country by May 2021. In exchange, the Taliban would stop being allied with other terrorist groups and be less violent. Even if the Taliban broke their promise, the US hoped that the Afghan government would be strong enough to hold them back. They were wrong.
As soon as the US started to pull back troops, the Taliban started taking over territories around the country. By August 2021, the cities and provinces around Kabul were being taken over. By August 16, Monday, the Taliban entered the capital facing little resistance as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
What’s Happening In Afghanistan
Now, Afghanistan is under Taliban rule once more and tens of thousands of Afghan citizens are fearing for their life. People who helped the coalition forces are now scared that they and their families will be killed. All the translators and civilians that helped the US in the past 20 years were just left. This is why there is such a panicked scramble to get these people out before they are caught by the Taliban. The US just left them without any safety or protection.
Thousands of people have been desperately trying to make it to the Kabul International Airport to find a way out of the country. There have been videos of people clinging on to departing US military aircraft even after they have taken off. Others show people falling of airplanes to their death. Millions of Afghans were displaced during the 20-year occupation and thousands more will be forced to leave their homes with what is happening.
Afghan women and girls are fearing that 20 years of progress would be wiped away in an instant. As stated before, the Taliban practice an extreme interpretation of Sharia Law, which means they see women as not of their equal. Under Taliban rule, women are not allowed to have a job, go to school, and even go outside the home. If they do, they must be accompanied by male chaperones and wear the burqa.
Pictures of women in business establishments around Kabul are being removed or covered. Already, Taliban leaders have issued orders saying that girls over the age of 15 must marry their fighters. Gains made by Afghan women in education, business, politics, and more could be gone. The Taliban has said that unlike before, they would respect women’s rights, but only time will tell whether they are true to their word.
Why You Should Care
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There’s a lot to unpack in this situation. While living under Taliban rule isn’t a welcome scenario for many Afghans, the US, and other Western countries aren’t guilt-free as well. The US going to war in Afghanistan was already a controversial decision, and how they left didn’t make things any better. Afghanistan is now back to square one as trillions of dollars and thousands of lives were wasted. What is happening in Afghanistan right now is the result of decades of foreign powers trying to influence the country and backfiring. But the most pressing concern now is that the humanitarian crisis that comes out of this will be nearly unbelievable.
The sense of abandonment and anxiety by many Afghans is real. Thousands of people’s lives will literally be put on hold. People will fear for their safety knowing that they can be killed, tortured, or executed just for disobeying the Taliban. Thousands of Afghans will be displaced, either internally, or around the world just to escape the violence. It is a humanitarian crisis that will be felt all over the world. Because of the actions of world powers, innocent people are going to suffer even though they don’t deserve to. And sadly, this is something we see in different parts of the world where innocent people are seen as collateral damage.
Second, the Taliban harbored al-Qaida back in the early 2000s. There’s nothing stopping the Taliban from harboring another terrorist group. The threat is possible and US officials have said that it is a likely scenario. Now that the group is nearing full control of the country, more terrorist groups could converge on Afghanistan and be a safe haven for them and other extremists.
How You Can Help
For real change to happen in Afghanistan, it would require the combined effort of world leaders to do things the right way. But even in your own little way, there are still things you can do to help. First, you can donate to international organizations working in Afghanistan that help gets people to safety, which you can do here and here. More importantly, there are still OFWs in Afghanistan who need to be returned home. There are an estimated 130 OFWs in Afghanistan with around 90 still in the country. If you personally know OFWs in the country, you reach out to them and help them get to safety or reach out to government officials like the DFA for help. If you have friends or family who can help stranded OFWs, please reach out to them.
You can also continue to educate and inform yourself of what is going on. All it takes is a Google search and you can start from there. You can even go deeper and learn about why the US went to war in Afghanistan in the first place, the history of the Taliban, what the US has done during their occupation, and other related topics. Share information about what’s happening on social media. If you aren’t comfortable starting conversations about it, then help amplify the right voices who are talking about it. Raise awareness for what is happening so that people, especially world leaders don’t forget.