What we have witnessed in Afghanistan over the past few weeks is a nightmare. Yes, the United States has been in Afghanistan for far too long, and the lives of countless young American men and women have been lost in the defense of a nation so far from our shores. No doubt, we entered there with a noble purpose. We had just suffered an attack on Sept. 11, 2001, that was unimaginable. We went in to assist a nation of men and women suffering under the oppression of a theocracy that embodied cruelty and intolerance.
And defend we did. After almost 20 years, in what would become America’s longest war, and in what many have described as “America’s forgotten war,” the United States military engagement is now ending. Four U.S. presidents have promised a withdrawal from Afghanistan, always with the idea that the local Afghani troops were trained well and were willing to oppose the Taliban forces. Countless dollars were spent on this training and the equipment which the local armed forces would use to defend themselves when finally America departed.
Depart we certainly did, under orders from President Joseph Biden, almost two weeks ago. However, the question that we now face is, did we actually make a difference there after all those years? In what some U.S. intelligence agencies thought would take a much longer time (if indeed it were to be possible at all), the Taliban swept through the nation, claiming it all under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Yes, Kabul and all of the other major cities of Afghanistan have fallen. One needs only to look to see the humanitarian crisis in which the world finds itself. Over the past two weeks, we have been shocked to see American citizens and those Afghanis who have assisted us as translators, workers, etc., as well as many other Afghanis, swarming to the airport to leave on U.S.-sanctioned airplanes. Those horrific pictures of Afghanis holding onto the airplane as it departed the nation, with some falling to their deaths, will haunt our collective memories for years to come. The photo of the infant passed over the security fence from an Afghani family to a U.S. soldier is harrowing.
From many reports, there are still many American citizens who are struggling to get out of a nation that could no doubt prove deadly to them. There are reports of American citizens attempting to reach the airport in Kabul only to face beatings from Taliban troops.
Sadly, our departure from this nation in which we have invested so much time and American blood is far from complete. This is especially true for the number of Christians who are still in Afghanistan, a place where being a Catholic, being a Christian, will lead to persecution and, indeed, martyrdom. Catholic Christians cannot abandon this ancient Apostolic land to which Saint Thomas the Doubter brought his personal experience of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our involvement in Afghanistan is far from over for us as Americans and for us as Christians. Through the intercession of Saint Thomas, may the Lord protect this suffering nation.