Afghanistan’s Fall Sends Tremors Throughout the Middle East
On April 14, 2021, President Biden announced that United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan would be completed by September 11. While the U.S. military withdrawal has quickly drawn comparisons to the U.S. military withdrawal in Saigon in 1975, this action promises a darker and much longer lasting effect in the Middle East and around the globe.
For many in the U.S., including John and myself who have sent loved ones to fight in this theatre, much has been sacrificed, with 2,448 U.S. troops having been killed in Afghanistan, more than 20,000 were wounded. U.S. contractors who have died: 3,846. The grim news continues: an average of 18 veterans commit suicide per day according to the Military Times. The cost has been and continues to be too great.
While we in the U.S. struggle for ways to handle all this, what is going on in the Middle East? How are the actions of the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover affecting the region? We’ve complied information to help give a perspective you may not already have seen, and prayer points you can engage in effectively.
Beginning with the largest player, China is moving quickly and decisively towards power brokering and maneuvers that openly started pre-US withdrawal. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying stated this week that China is looking forward to deepening relations with the Taliban. Given its connection with China, Pakistan’s growing confidence in it’s role in the Middle East is making others, including India greatly concerned.
Russia, whose invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and failed war that ended in 1989 is a reminder of just how complicated the Afghanistan scene is, continues to be engaged in Afghanistan. With no clear stated current objective except that of being a dominate central Asia military power, Russia’s envoy in Afghanistan has so far stayed put during the upheaval, stemming talks and agreements with the Taliban pre-US withdrawal, leaving Russia with a seat at the political table.
Iran, a major player in the region, is holding the US nuclear Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a distance as Iran’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hard liner cleric unfolds his new agenda. Raisi holds no promise of cooperation with the United States on the JCPOA which helps keep the peace in the region. President Raisi’s political career became a deputy prosecutor at age 25 and sat as one of four judges called the “Death Committee” sentencing thousands of political prisoners who were already serving their sentences, to death. His reputation is well known. Mr. Raisi has, through the years, risen to prosector general of Tehran and important to remember, is that he is a close ally to Ayatollah Khamenei.
Iraq’s official position promises to be similar to Iran’s due to the heavy impact Iran has on Baghdad. While the Iraqi government may be swayed by Iran, the populous in Iraq is concerned for heavy influence from Tehran in every sector of the country. Indigenous Ministries has three ministry offices in Iraq presently.
Hamas has lost no time praising the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ senior official, compared the situation to their fight against Israel. The Islamic Jihad also signaled their approval of the takeover. ISIS, once again on the rise in the region, is no stranger to Afghanistan, having recruited many Afghan youth to fight in its conflicts. The Taliban has made statements that it will thwart ISIS from a presence in Afghanistan, however, a number of ISIS fighters took refuge in north Afghanistan after their defeat in Mosul in 2017. Interestingly, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) committee member Ahmad Majdalani criticized the Taliban’s celebration of the takeover on Facebook, calling it shortsighted (https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-praises-taliban-for-causing-american-downfall-in-afghanistan/).
Where is Al-Qaeda in this? In an exclusive CNN interview this April, two Al-Qaeda operatives threatened that the US is in for more…much more on the war on terror, and that the ”war against the US will be continuing on all other fronts unless they are expelled from the rest of the Islamic world” (https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/30/asia/al-qaeda-afghanistan-biden-intl-cmd/index.html).
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with US CIA director William Burns on August 15, 2021 to discuss Afghanistan, Libya, and the Palestine territories. How does Egypt fit in all this? Very importantly to the US, because, after Israel, Egypt receives the second largest amount of US aid in the Middle East and its powerful army holds a stabilizing sway on the region. Currently, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood are targeting the Egypt army in the Sinai; if Egypt falls, the whole Middle East falls. Indigenous Ministries has ministry in Egypt.
Turkey has stated it wants to broker peace with and in Afghanistan, however time will tell what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will do, especially with the power vacuum the US has left.
Syria, where 80% of the population lives in poverty due to the ongoing 10 year civil war, will surely feel the negative repercussions of Afghanistan’s political upheaval as insurgents gain power. Refugees continue to pour from Syria into Turkey, Lebanon and N. Iraq. Our Indigenous Ministries teams have been ministering to Syrian refugees since 2014.
What about the Christians in the Middle East? Thousands in Afghanistan who have cooperated with the US have been already been massacred since the US withdrawal. Christians are being executed. Reports of pastors being dragged in the streets and executed have surfaced. Those with a US or western phone numbers in their phone are being killed. The US rapid exit has left a horrific blood bath and Christians have suffered and will continue to suffer greatly.
What action could we possibly take that would impact lives in Afghanistan? Besides, aren’t our plates full enough with COVID, wild fires and earthquakes? In a nod to hopelessness and apathy this thinking prevents us from effectiveness in this horrific drama involving our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and any others who are suffering at the hands of the Taliban. We cannot turn away. Not now. We must act as Christians should.
First and foremost, fear and it’s friend, faintheartedness, must be set aside. Secondly, it is time to draw closer to God though His Word, the Bible; read of His faithfulness and stalwart dependability. Thirdly, we must take up our role and pray for our Brothers and Sisters, pray for the governments in the region, pray for our government. Fourthly, make your voice heard. Fifth, encourage and help as you are led by the Holy Spirit.
For Christians in every corner of the Middle East, there is no option but to live each day knowing that if the bigger bullies aren’t kept at bay their future is very bleak. Hearts are fainting all through out the Middle East because the US has forsaken the Afghan people. The stability of the region has suffered a severe blow.
But while the world watches the Afghanistan soil turn red with fresh blood, another is watching too. His vantage point is clear and His heart too is broken for the innocents. Often the blame for this type of centuries-old chaos, He, nevertheless, stands guard over those claiming his name.
As nations position themselves and rage, we of all people on the face of this earth can look up and trust God. Not in governments which fail, not in armies which kill, not in politicians who lie and break promises, but in a faithful God who never changes. Are you having trouble trusting Him? Take heart, Peter did too, yet he walked on water with Christ. We also have the advantage that God has warned us in Isaiah 55 that we often won’t understand him. Understanding God is not a pre-requisite to trusting him.
Don’t give in to fear! Fear will keep us from our most important role ever: engaging in prayer for the suffering and persecuted. It’s time to rise, shake off the COVID dust and rattle our prayer swords, for if we do not engage now in meaningful prayer on behalf of the suffering, when will we? If we don’t help the helpless now, will we ever do so? The Middle East has been thrust into a new time of crisis that promises to last for decades, or, until Christ returns. Now more than ever, our assignment is crystal clear. There is no time to debate trivia and argue over minutiae as has been our Christian habit.
As we have watched these events unfold, let me share several things. The first is that this did not take the Lord by surprise. The former Afghani Ambassador expressed deep gratitude to the United States for all that has been given. “You made a huge difference … in lives of people you haven’t met and will never meet,” Roya Rahmani said during a recent news interview. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/afghan-ambassador-roya-rahmani-veterans-devastated-taliban-insurgency) With 70% of the people of Afghanistan under the age of 30, this generation has been given rare freedoms under the protection of the U.S. military.
Although there is no church building, there has been a thriving multitude of believers in Afghanistan. There are those who will state that it is the second fastest growing church in the world. It also may be true that the greatest number of martyrs in this year will come from Afghanistan.
We too will watch and wait to see how the Middle East and the world reacts to the Afghanistan turmoil. Meanwhile, we will continue to minister, to serve and to work with our national partners in this part of the world who are asking God for strength and courage. Thank you for partnering with us as we uphold the name of Christ together.
Luke 1-8 is a decisively unsettling yet hopeful passage. A widow pestered an unjust judge – and won her prize: justice. Jesus ended the parable with this: “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Will not God grant justice to his elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay helping them? I tell you that he will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” – Dee A. Cook