The situation in Afghanistan can most aptly be described as an ever-escalating dumpster fire, with women becoming the greatest casualties in a Taliban-fueled dystopian nightmare.
Less than a year and a half since the U.S. entirely pulled troops out of Afghanistan in August 2021, the situation continues to disintegrate, with rampant poverty raging and human rights evaporating.
Any gains made during America’s long presence in the beleaguered country are mere ghosts of progress as the Taliban’s claws plunge deeper into all facets of Afghan life, culture and society.
Most recently, Taliban officials banned women from attending universities — a ruthless decision that further hampers the rights of females. This came after earlier orders required women to cover their bodies in public.
Females are also blocked from traveling long distances alone.
The latest rule about college education came after girls were told they couldn’t attend school after the sixth grade. Other restrictions and regulations will surely follow.
All of this might seem shocking to Americans who enjoy near-boundless freedoms, but it’s unsurprising to experts familiar with the Taliban’s previous reign of terror before the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
“It is an incredibly distressing decision but in some ways not shocking nor a surprise,” Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and the former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, recently told me. “We have to understand that the suppression of women is really integral to the extremist ideology of the Taliban.”
Beyond the treatment of women, religious minority groups also face unimaginable horrors. A Christian woman told persecution watchdog Open Doors USA last year how the Taliban were going door-to-door murdering Christians, among other atrocities.
“The Taliban are going door-to-door snatching young girls and destroying families. They are conducting a door-to-door search to find us, and if they find us, they kill believers on the spot,” the woman said. “Jesus has called us to bear much suffering. But when I see my son and daughter, my heart sinks, and I lose courage. Dear Lord, do not let them lose hope in a better tomorrow.”
It’s impossible to read and hear such accounts and not ponder the U.S. withdrawal and America’s responsibility for the current situation. Afghanistan has, no doubt, long been a precarious and dangerous place, yet many of these issues improved during America’s time inside the country.
Now, with America gone, the clock has turned back in the worst of ways.
Regardless of opinions on the initial war or the pullout, it seems impossible to argue the U.S. presence there didn’t benefit the Afghan people. In a world in which so many argue in terms of “us vs. them,” the shared humanity — the universal hopes, dreams and love for family — force us to ponder if we’ve abandoned a responsibility of sorts.
As Afghanistan descends back into its previous state, one wonders: What was the point of the massive effort and investment America made? One also wonders, in light of the terror, how can we now step into the gap to help?
First and foremost, we must pray for the Afghan people and for the Taliban to change their hearts and minds. Sadly, the deadly Russian invasion of Ukraine and other news stories have caused the Afghanistan debacle to mostly disappear from the headlines here in America.
Thus, I’d also implore each of us not to forget the people’s plight, as so many suffer at the hands of radical and medieval theology and ideology.
The issues are so pervasive and rampant that Open Doors USA last year ranked Afghanistan the worst nation in the world for Christian persecution. The move was seen as the “biggest seismic shift,” with Afghanistan replacing North Korea as the top offending nation.
Meanwhile, the Afghan people are starving, with the crumbling situation plunging the entire nation into an economic crisis.
“Almost the entire population is now living in poverty as families head toward another long winter,” according to the International Rescue Committee.
Finally, we must hold politicians and stakeholders accountable, ensuring they (and we) fully understand the long-term impact of decisions such as pulling troops out of a nation before these choices are made.
We must also implore our leaders to creatively brainstorm ways the U.S. can place a chokehold on the Taliban’s radical ideology and actions without further harming the Afghan people and, in particular, the women and minority groups trapped by this insidious extremism.
So, let’s pray, educate ourselves and encourage our leaders. The lives and well-being of the Afghan people depend on it.
• Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” Hallowell is the author of four books, including “Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts,” and “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist’s Quest for End-Times Answers.” He was formerly the director of content and communications at Pure Flix and the former faith and culture editor at TheBlaze.