By Audra Heinrichs

Following the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan, many live in fear for the country’s future.

Two weeks before the U.S. was due to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan after a two-decade war; the Taliban have taken control of the country. Matters have rapidly escalated this week, with Taliban leaders capturing several major cities, President Ghani fleeing the country, and the U.S. embassy being evacuated

Around the globe, many watch helplessly as social media floods with photos of Taliban leaders occupying the presidential palace and chaos at the Kabul airport as hundreds clamor for flights out of the country, leading to at least eight deaths, two of which were at the hands of U.S. marines. Women’s rights advocates and activists have also taken to Instagram and Twitter to voice their fears for women as the Taliban surges to power once more. 

As governments worldwide hypothesize how the situation in Afghanistan shifted this quickly, and international news media teems with developing narratives, the world looks on asking what we can do to alleviate the suffering of those unable to evacuate. 

Here’s what you should know. 

How we got here:

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, then-President George W. Bush sent thousands of troops to Afghanistan in what was said to be the first phase of the War on Terror. The objective was to remove the Taliban from power, as the U.S. government believed the Taliban had given sanctuary to al-Qaeda, the organization that conducted 9/11. 

U.S. forces remained in the country for the last two decades. Therefore, the U.S troops’ withdrawal from the country created an opportunity for the Taliban to overpower existing security forces in Afghanistan. 

On Monday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation on the crisis and said that while the Taliban takeover happened faster than anticipated, he remained “squarely behind” the decision to withdraw American troops.

“I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interests of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces,” said Biden.

Officials in the Biden administration have admitted miscalculations. This week, on “State of the Union,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Jake Tapper, “The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country. And that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.” 

What comes next:

When imagining what lies ahead for the country, it’s crucial to recall the last time the Taliban had control in Afghanistan. From 1996 to 2001, the organization barred women from attending school or working outside the home, forcing them to wear burqas and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban also banned music and enforced cruel punishments like cutting off the hands of thieves and stoning adulterers.

For many, the Taliban’s return to power is synonymous with a complete collapse of civil liberties, particularly for women and girls who found much more freedom in a civilian government.

Despite the Taliban promising to maintain women’s rights, one woman has already been shot and killed in the street for not wearing a head covering. Vice reported that all photographs of women outside beauty salons are already being painted over, while many visible women’s rights advocates and activists say they fear for their lives.  

On Monday, The U.N. Security Council held a meeting where U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urged members of the Council to “use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat” and protect human rights in the country. Additional U.S. troops have also been sent to Afghanistan to stabilize the airport in Kabul. 

How to Help:

Many organizations, both national and international, are currently pleading for donations and assistance. Below are a few you can donate to. 

Doctors Without Borders – A medical non-governmental organization best known for its work in conflict zones.

Women for Afghan Women – A grassroots civil society organization dedicated to Afghan women and girls’ rights.

Panah Charity – A charity that delivers emergency aid to families displaced by to the war in Afghanistan.

Afghan-American Women’s Association – A non-political community group dedicated to bringing Afghans together in the larger D.C. area and beyond.

Pathways for Migration – An organization designed to aid Afghans seeking entry to the U.S., U.K., Canada, or the E.U.

A complete list of vetted organizations to donate to can also be found here

Who To Follow: 

Many Afghan activists, advocates, and journalists are risking their lives to disseminate information via social media. Below are a few you can follow for reliable, on the ground updates of what’s happening in the country:

  1. @arianadelawari
  2. @omar.haidari
  3. @missminakabul 
  4. @y3lda
  5. @nee10
  6. @shabnamnasimi