Afghanistan (MNN) — Fear surges in Afghanistan as the final Western troops leave. The United States planned to be gone by September 11th, but now officials say the departure could be finished as early as Sunday. Less than 700 troops will be left behind to provide security for diplomats, the Associated Press reports.
Last week, authorities vowed to evacuate up to 50,000 Afghan interpreters and their families left vulnerable by the U.S. departure. The U.S. began its “boots on the ground” presence in Afghanistan 20 years ago following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“With the withdrawal of the U.S. and the NATO troops, it’s becoming a very, very desperate situation there,” Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says.
“Once those troops are gone, there’s a lot of fear that the country is going to fall under total Taliban rule.”
Clashes intensified earlier this week as the Taliban attacked checkpoints and secured control of another district. The Afghan government is arming nearly 30,000 citizens to help fight off Taliban advances.
“It looks like chaos has already begun. We are hearing of multiple bombings and young girls being killed at the schools. The military in Afghanistan looks overpowered again,” Musselman says.
“It’s a difficult situation, not only for the small Christian community but the country at large.”
Another threat to believers
As described here, Afghanistan is already one of the world’s most difficult places to be a Christian.
“There are very few Christians in Afghanistan because it is so difficult for them to be following Christ. When we talk about ‘the Church,’ we’re not talking about a visible building because that is not allowed in Afghanistan,” Musselman says.
“Evangelism is forbidden, and those that are interested in Jesus have to be very, very discreet. If Christians are caught [sharing their faith], they’re beaten, tortured; they’re kidnapped.”
According to this report by persecution watchdog Open Doors, leaving Islam to follow Christ is a sign of insanity in Afghanistan.
“Most Afghans don’t ever hear about Christianity, or if they do, it’s in very limited ways. They are raised not to question their allegiance to Muhammad’s teaching in Islam.”
Circumstances like these mean very few believers choose to stay in Afghanistan. “Many have left the country already,” Musselman says. However, those who remained to share Christ with their countrymen could face new challenges if the Taliban seizes control.
“They have this militant Islamic ideology that … affects the whole country, even the moderate Muslims. Women, in particular, are vulnerable under this ‘brand’ of Islam,” Musselman says.
“It’s always difficult for Christians… but it will get even worse now under the Taliban.”
How to help
Ask God to protect the small group of believers that remains in Afghanistan. Pray that God would make “seeing eyes blind” so that anyone searching for secret Afghan Christians would not discover them.
Pray God would work on the hearts of Islamic extremists so they can come to know the love of Jesus and leave their violent ways.
“Finding out about Christianity is difficult. But we also know that, in countries where it is so hard to hear the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is working in powerful ways [through] dreams and visions,” Musselman says.
“If I were there, I’d want to get my family out into another country. But it’s imperative that believers in Jesus stay in places like Afghanistan to bring the hope that comes in Christ.”
Header image is a 2002 photo depicting Cpt. Todd Fleming, left, from the 401st Civil Affairs Battalion from Rochester, NY. Fleming speaks to local villagers with the assistance of Ahmad Zahir an interpreter from Kabul about possible weapons, known minefields and suspicious individuals in the immediate area near Narizah, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo taken by Spc. Eric E. Hughes) (Released)