It only took about a week for the country to fall. All the training the U.S. military provided, and it all crumbled in a matter of days.

So many can’t believe it happened so quickly. But, when a country is propping up another, without a change in culture and thinking, once the prop is gone, so is the illusion. Freedom and democracy are things, I’ve come to believe, must be things felt from the people, not from the top or someone telling a people what they must feel or do. It cannot be forced.

As I listened and read about the unfolding of events, my heart has gone out to the women and girls of Afghanistan. The men and boys will, in all likelihood, be fine overall. It is the women and girls who have had the carpet yanked out from under them.

Some women will be old enough to remember the dark times of Taliban rule. There is no way to even imagine how most of them must be feeling knowing those dark times are back again. However, they will know how to survive under their rule, sadly and thankfully.

It is the girls who came of age during the U.S. occupation I worry about above all others. Most will have been too young, or not even born, when the Taliban was driven into the hills. They will have had freedoms to have become accustomed to having as part of their everyday lives. Things like receiving an education, working outside the home, and not having to wear a chaderee that covers their entire body—even the eyes are covered with a mesh screen.

How they must feel right now? How hard it will most likely be because they have known nothing different? How many will die for not following the rules of the Taliban? How many will be severely beaten to be taught a lesson? How much mental anguish they must be feeling to have lost their identities essentially overnight. The fear they must experiencing is gut-wrenching.

I do agree we had to leave Afghanistan and there would never have been a best time. However, I’m not sure how we left was the best way to go about it.

One story I’ve read has stuck with me the most of all that I’ve read. It talked about how we trained the Afghan military in the image of how our military works, which is to be supported immensely in the air.

My understanding of the article was the U.S. continued to support in the air, including providing supplies and cover during our time in the country. The impression was our military didn’t take that extra step of training the Afghan military to use the air in the same way. When we up and left, all of their air support and supply chains went too. Some of the Afghan military did fight back, but when the supplies ran out with no way to continue, it was die or surrender. If there is no hope of the cavalry, then survival and the thought of going home to one’s family takes precedence.

If we had trained them differently, or provided training on how to effectively use the air to their benefit, maybe the Afghan’s would have been able to effectively fight back and the country wouldn’t be where it is now, in a state of chaos and disbelief.

I’ve also been wondering, were the men of Afghanistan okay with the lifting up of women in society? The Middle East has been a male centric and tribal led for thousands of years. It will take more than 20 years to totally shift a mentality that has been around for centuries. We have to stop thinking that other peoples think as we do and want what we want.

Here poor Afghanistan is again. First the Russians, then the Americans, and the Afghan people suffer. And this time, the Afghan women will suffer the most.

Let’s hope every person—child, woman, and man—is able to leave who wants to do so. At the very least, we owe them a way out, a place to live, and a chance to start over.

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