As I write this letter the Afghan city of Kabul has fallen; there are chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, as both US and UK governments desperately fly in to rescue and retrieve their respective citizens and those Afghans who have worked with them. Despite billions of pounds and dollars being spent on building up the Afghan army (and numerous lives lost), the whole thing has collapsed like ‘a pack of cards’ and Western governments have been left reeling at the speed at which the Taliban have conquered the country. The Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, called the BBC’s Yalda Hakim live on air to “assure the people of Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe – there will be no revenge on anyone”. This was of little comfort to the people on the ground who were clinging to the sides of aircraft in order to escape. Neither did it sit well with simultaneous reports received by the United Nations Security Council of mass killings and mounting human rights violations against women.
Twenty years ago, following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, things had been very different. The anti-Taliban forces of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance with the backing of the US and other Western nations had pushed the Taliban out of Kabul and were gaining the upper hand over Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement. With this advance came political and social progress; businesses were allowed to prosper and flourish; girls and young women were able to study by going to school and university; and democratic processes became a part of electing governments. None of these things were perfect, but they were like a breath of fresh air to those who experienced them. Unfortunately, President Trump’s desire to ‘bring troops home’ and have a foreign policy success which would appeal to voters at home, has led him and his successor President Biden to make decisions that are disastrous for Afghanistan and arguably for western nations as well. The Bible encourages Christians to be as ‘wise as serpents and as innocent as doves’ when living amongst wolves (Matthew 10.16). Unfortunately, not a lot of wisdom was shown here, as we were really ‘blind as a bat’ in this case, only seeing what we wanted to see rather than what was the potential reality. This is a dark day for US/UK foreign policy as our credibility is shot to pieces; we can only hope that we have learnt our lessons.
However, there may still be a glimmer of hope, that God will work in the hearts and lives of all those who have experienced a better way of life and freedom, that one day they will encourage their society to turn their back on all the things which harm, impede, pull down and destroy and reach out for something better. Let’s pray that this may be so.