We have all seen the chaotic scenes of Afghans trying to flee Kabul after the astonishingly swift takeover of the capitol by Taliban, within days of American troops leaving Afghanistan. But there are reasons to for optimism as explained below.
It is reported as one of the colossal failures of American intelligence as most did not see it coming. We are told that American intelligence figured Taliban may take over in 90 days or later. As of April, the U.S. has spent $2.261 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, according to the Costs of War project housed at Brown University’s Watson Institute and Boston University’s Pardee Center. This does not include the projected cost of taking care of the veterans in the decades to come, or the human toll- American, Afghan, Pakistani or other allied forces.
All for what?
It has created another human crisis. Pakistan is fearing the refugees will spill into its borders-again. After the Russian invasion in the 1980s when we were supporting forces that later turned into forces like Taliban and Al Qaida, we had left abruptly, leaving a leadership void behind, resulting in civil war between Taliban and Northern Alliance. It also played havoc in neighboring countries, especially Pakistan where millions of refugees made their way. Many in Afghanistan and Pakistan still feel the United states abandoned them. Despite claims to the contrary, Pakistan has fought America’s war on terror in Afghanistan, and no other country has faced more internal law and order situation worse than Pakistan as a result.
But was it an intelligence failure really?
Did we not know that Taliban were lurking? Did we not know that the Afghan army was not capable and/or willing to offer resistance? It is hard to fathom that after spending 20 years we did not know it was coming.
When we invaded Iraq in 2003 to get rid of “weapons of mass destruction”, we found nothing. It was blamed once again on intelligence failure.
It is hard to comprehend as to how the world’s best intelligence could have such failures except to conclude that they were not failures after all.
Perhaps we intended to invade Iraq regardless. Perhaps we intended to leave Afghanistan (again) leaving a chaotic situation behind. It was not a big secret that Taliban were making advances before we decided to leave. Could we have not forged a peace agreement between Taliban and the-then government of Afghanistan for a joint leadership structure? Even the Taliban were surprised at the lack of resistance and ease f the take over. From all the accounts, they were willing to form a joint government.
Back to Afghanistan in 2021.
So why this chaos and the fear?
People fear that Taliban could carry out revenge against the current political and military personnel. Others ‘fear’ that they will implement the harsh version of the Sharia law, that most other Muslim countries have not believed in. Back in their first regime, women were forced to wear Burqas, covering the entire body and face, a version that is not universally accepted in rest of Islamic countries, with the exception of Saudi Arabia. Women were not allowed to leave home unless accompanied by their husbands or other adult male members of the family, and were also barred from receiving education.
What is the responsibility of the faith organizations to help?
Many communities have mobilized themselves to offer support to the Afghan people. Islamic centers in the San Francisco bay area, for example, have set up special accounts and programs to assist arriving refugees in many areas of need such as housing, meals, social services etc. Many other Muslim and Non Muslim communities, and secular organizations are also offering help. 
It is also our responsibility to speak out the truth and fight for justice, even if it is against ‘ourselves’.
O you who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. The Qur’an 4:135
There are many signs that this Taliban regimen will be different than the prior regime. They have offered general amnesty to the prior government, army and intelligence service personnel. There have been sporadic reports of some abuse but their representative has spoken out against such practices and reports that their will be an internal accountability. Here is a short interview by the Taliban representative that gives a ray of hope.
Regardless their people are in our thoughts and prayers. May the peace and the cool heads prevail. Amen.
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