UPDATE: Taliban Sweeps Like Fire Across Afghanistan as US Troops Withdraw
It’s only been a few months since international troops have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan after a bloody and protracted war
It’s only been a few months since international troops have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan after a bloody and protracted war there, but things are already looking bad for the long-embattled country. Since the start of the troop withdrawal, the Taliban terrorist organization has been sweeping across Afghanistan like wildfire. They’ve seized vulnerable cities and left-behind caches of supplies, making them well-placed to fight the Afghanistan government which is making valiant efforts to fight back. CELEB takes a look at what’s happening in Afghanistan and what may be yet to come.
The State of Afghanistan Today
Today, civilians huddle in terror as the Taliban sweeps across the country once again. Once held under the steadying grip of an international coalition of troops, Afghanistan is descending into chaos as those troops withdraw. As they take over city after city – 9 of 34 provincial capitals and counting – rumors have swirled that the Taliban fighters are seizing young girls to marry and young boys to fight. Taliban spokespeople say these are unfounded rumors meant to inflame, but the terror their reign is inspiring is indisputable.
As of Tuesday, 233 districts were under Taliban control, 65 under control of the government, and another 109 being fought over. The government has been attempting to fight back, but there has been turmoil among leaders. Per the BBC, “President Ashraf Ghani earlier flew to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif – traditionally an anti-Taliban bastion – to try to rally pro-government forces.
The removal of the country’s army chief, General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, was confirmed to the BBC on Wednesday. He had only been in the post since June.”
So could the Taliban really re-take control of the beleaguered country? It’s a very real possibility. As the president tries to defend Northern Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif may hold the key to the turn of the tide in favor of one side or the other.
As the Taliban and government forces go head to head over key locations and supply caches, civilians are squeezed between the two, frightened and in danger. The world is watching in horror, and in Germany and the Netherlands they have paused deportations of migrants back to Afghanistan. It would be unseemly to send them back to the chaos erupting there; so why are troops still pulling out? The answer is likely the high cost and poor public opinion over the US and other allied nations’ troop occupations of the country. The Afghanistan war has been deadly, wildly unpopular, immensely costly, and has dragged on interminably because they feared the power vacuum they would leave behind. Unfortunately, those fears are proving founded as the extremist Taliban retakes the territory it lost to allied troops in the early ’00’s.
Celebrities Weigh in On Afghanistan Turmoil
Across the world, people are speaking out over the horrors being broadcast from Afghanistan as the Taliban continues it’s horrifying sweep across the country. CELEB‘s Nik Richie spoke out, saying, “My heart is with the children of Afghanistan. I wish there was more that I could do. My best friends are Afghan, and they are the most loving and loyal people on earth. I hope every celebrity uses their platform to spread the situation regardless of their ethnicity. Children are dying.”
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One of the world’s preeminent EDM music managers, Moe Shalizi, had this informative and heartbreaking share on Instagram; “I urge all my fellow afghans and friends alike to bring awareness on the bloodshed happening in Afghanistan.
Since US forces started to withdraw from Afghanistan in May 2021, the Taliban have increased its activity in Afghanistan and the country is now witnessing a tremendously devastating escalation of violence that is causing mass internal and external displacement, civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure including homes, health facilities, public services, and schools.
The UN has reported in the first half of 2021, 1,659 civilians were killed and 3,254 wounded, a 47 percent increase compared to last year.
330,000 Afghans have been displaced from their homes in the last 3 months. The number of Afghans crossing the border from Afghanistan to Iran and Pakistan has increased up to 40 percent. 30,000 people are now recorded to flee the country every week.
Pakistan has been harboring the Taliban and giving them a safe space to recruit and train alongside more than 30 other terrorist organizations. They also provide sanctuary for Taliban members and their families inside Pakistan which includes direct financial support through various channels as well as providing weapons and explosives. This support helps the Taliban in conducting small- and large-scale operations inside Afghanistan (ex: Border cities and Spin Boldak).”
Shalizi then went on to explain how people can help: “How to help Afghanistan now[:]
1. Talk about the issues happening in Afghanistan to raise awareness.
2. Amplify messaging to support the Afghan people
3. Contact congressional and senate representatives to put pressure on the US government to help find a solution
4. Call for sanctioning Pakistan for their support of the Taliban
5. Donate to organizations working on the ground with civilians in need.”
We also spoke with Mustafa Abdi, Las Vegas nightlife executive, who told CELEB, “Since I can remember, my country has been at war. At 4 years old, I remember walking down the streets of City Hall with my family and the Afghan community of Las Vegas led by my father Abdul. The protest was to raise awareness of the Soviet Union’s invasion on our country, and in 32 years not much has changed. Political agendas, greed, and corruption have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives. Growing up, I always wished that our country would one day prosper with peace and stability, but that was shattered with the resurgence of the Taliban.
The Taliban is a terrorist organization funded by the Pakistani government. That government receives funds from the US?!?! We are burdened knowing that the world does not care of Afghan lives, including the countries that have had a direct role in the creation and funding of the Taliban. Nothing I can do, other than speak about what is happening. It saddens me to know I will never know the beautiful country my parents grew up in.”
And Durana Elmi, COO, Managing Partner of Cymbiotika & Rya Organics had this to say; “We need to unite and stand together as one.
We need to stand for humanity and support our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Everyone has a voice, a platform and a network. I encourage you to be the voice of change to stop the war in Afghanistan and bring awareness to the 17 protests happening worldwide. Afghanistan is considered the deadliest country today, with women and children suffering the most.”
What will follow depends on how involved the world gets in what’s happening in Afghanistan. As of April of 2021, nearly 241,000 people have died in the Afghanistan war since 2001. Over 71,000 of them have been civilians. As the Taliban continues to kill more civilians in its quest for power, it’s heartbreaking to watch people plead for anyone to care – and the world continues to be horrified, but do nothing.
President Joe Biden has said that he does not regret the United States pulling out of Afghanistan, and encourages the government to fight back. Such words seem encouraging on paper but when held up against the suffering and horror the civilians are facing right this moment all over Afghanistan, they come across as callous and cold. The government could collapse in as few as 90 days – putting Afghanistan right back into the dire straits and dangerous hands it was in 20 years ago when the world first turned its attention to the Middle Eastern country.
What’s happening in Afghanistan is unimaginable on both a global and personal scale. Watching civilians fall victim to the Taliban – a force the world has long promised to keep at bay and hold accountable for atrocities such as violence committed in the Middle East, the US, and around the world – is horrifying in and of itself. But on top of that very real human cost, it’s even more unimaginable to think that the past several decades have been for nothing. If the goal was to stabilize the region, give the Afghani people their own government and chance at freedoms, and to minimize the threats of a terrorist government rising to power – it’s all about to come tumbling down. All the deaths, civilian and combat-related, all the years spent trying to make a change, and it’s all evaporating. World leaders like Biden will have to do some soul searching and decide if the continued withdrawal is the right – and humane – thing to do. For now, the horrors continue to mount as the Taliban advances, and the world can only watch in horror.
Bad to Worse
Things have gone from bad to worse in Afghanistan over the weekend as the humanitarian crisis deepens and Taliban accelerates its takeover of the country. On Friday, President Ashraf Ghani had withdrawn to government stronghold Mazar-i-Sharif to raise troop morale in what was a critical fulcrum for control over the North. Over the weekend, however, three more urban centers fell to the Taliban, including Asadabad, Gardez, an Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, and several other cities across the West and the South as the Taliban’s hold on the country strengthened.
By Sunday, only two major cities remained under government control and one of those, Jalalabad, fell early, leaving only capital Kabul still in opposition to insurgents. President Ghani fled the country, retreating to Tajikistan. Since this morning, Taliban forces have occupied the presidential palace in Kabul and have decided they have achieved victory, with spokespeople for the terrorist group saying, “the war is over.”
The speed with which the Taliban retook the country has stunned the world, and other countries have scrambled to get their nationals out as the capital fell and the airport became one of the last bastions of hope and escape for thousands. Women and children are exceptionally vulnerable as the terrorist group continues to cement its control over the country. Under their government, women and children were afforded protections that are now stripped away and many have been and will be forced into marriages. Boys will be recruited for the war effort, and men who resist will be killed. It’s a nightmare scenario of epic and apocalyptic proportions, and it’s happened so fast you could have missed it if you blinked. According to critics, the United States and allies were warned that the country and Kabul in particular were vulnerable to the Taliban and would fall if the occupying troops withdrew. But the Trump administration who first ordered the withdrawal and then the Biden administration expressed confidence that the Afghan government could protect its assets, a prediction which has been horrifyingly proven wrong as the Taliban was helped along by Pakistani intelligence and perhaps funds.
In response to the Taliban takeover, President Biden mobilized 5,000 troops late last week along with an additional 1,000 over the weekend. But it may be too little too late, as the clock has wound back 20 years and more – and it certainly comes too late for all the civilians caught under the wheels of the Taliban machine as it rolls inexorably forward.