Australia and the allies powers who went to war in Afghanistan with the aim of destroying Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have failed. They have failed on their primary objectives of removing extremism from the region, establishing a democratic society in Afghanistan, and bringing security to the country.
Most of all, they have failed the people of Afghanistan, who will now suffer unimaginably brutal conditions under newly reinstated Taliban rule.
This protracted conflict, which has raged for two decades, cost the lives of 41 Australian service men and women and $10 billion dollars. This is not to mention the hundreds more who have taken their own lives and had their mental health shattered through the effects of PTSD.
For the Afghanis, 69,000 security men and women have died and 51,000 civilians have been killed. Around 51,000 militants have also been killed.
As US forces withdrew from Afghanistan, it took the Taliban just over a week to re-capture the entire nation. The Afghani army, trained at a cost of US$86 billion by the US, either fled or joined Taliban forces who sped through the country almost without resistance. The Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, has gone into hiding in Tajikistan, abandoning his country with millions in cash. The total expenditure for this failure by the US alone is thought to be around US$2 trillion dollars or $2,000,000,000,000.
The full scale of atrocities, failures, and bitter disappointments in Afghanistan over the past two decades and the coming future are too numerous too mention. If you, like us, are feeling that all too familiar mix of powerlessness, rage, and sorrow, here’s what you can do with that energy to help.
How to Help People in Afghanistan
There are serious concerns for the safety of those who assisted occupying forces over the past two decades. Along with this are those who work in education, particularly the education of women, and those who have been outspoken about the need for progressive equitable change. The Hazara people, comprising around 25 per cent of the population of Afghanistan, are particular targets of the Taliban for their Shia beliefs and support of liberal cultural values.
The first and most significant thing that Australia can do to help Afghanis is open our borders. Australia right now has 3,500 Afghan citizens on temporary protection visas. While Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has said that “no Afghan visa holder will be asked to return to Afghanistan at this stage,” stronger protections are needed here.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that operations are underway to evacuate some of the Afghan nationals who assisted Australia in it military occupation of the country but that not all would be saved.
In the wake of the Vietnam War, the end of which saw the capital Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, fall to Viet Cong forces who the West had been at war with for two decades, Australia took in some 185,000 Vietnamese refugees.
After the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke offered assylum to 42,000 Chinese nationals in Australia.
In 2015, Australia took in 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees as ISIS dominated the region.
In the wake of historical disasters, Australia has precedent in stepping up, particularly when we bear some of the responsibility for those disasters. Now is the time to act similarly with towards the people of Afghanistan.
The most effective way to encourage political action is to write or call your member of parliament and/or your senator. Their contact details can be found here.
Social media is typically the place we turn to in times like this to share our grief and frustration as well as organise support and assistance.
Use whatever platform you have to promote the voices and work of Afghan activists, leaders, journalists, and artists as it can really make a difference. One charity working in the space has mentioned how a single viral tweet saw their donations jump by over 250 in just a few hours.
Charities Helping Afghanistan
The situation in Afghanistan is the fastest-growing humanitarian disaster in the world right now. While almost all foreign influence in the way of embassies and international humanitarian organisations have fled, there are still effective ways you can donate and support charities that are working to alleviate the problems on the ground.
The United Nations Refugee Agency is currently in the region supplying emergency shelter, food, health, water, sanitation support and cash assistance. You can set up a one off or a recurring donation to them here.
The Refugee Council of Australia is currently pressuring the government to take firmer action on refugees. They work to influence policy and politics domestically as well as provide coordination for charities and individuals. You can donate to them here.
Since 1986, Mercy Corps has been working to improve the quality of life for Afghans and support conflict-affected communities. Last year, they reached over 370,000 people across the country, creating jobs and providing access to energy and clean water. They are still operating in the region and are appealing for donations to help with the huge influx of people in need of support.
The International Rescue Committee have also been working in Afghanistan in 1988 and are continuing to provide aid under Taliban rule. Their operational team is almost entirely comprised of local people and they work in thousands of villages across nine provinces. You can donate to them here.
If you’re strapped for cash but have some spare frequent flyer points that you’re not using right now because of other international disasters, Miles4Migrants lets you donate your air miles to get migrants flights to safety. They work mainly with US air mile programmes but you can use American Express if you have it. They also accept cash donations.
Support Women in Afghanistan
As mentioned, women are likely to suffer huge consequences as the country returns to Taliban rule. The extremist doctrine preached by the militant group forbids women from having access to education, jobs, and even stepping outside without a man.
There are two key organisations worth supporting if you can that directly help women in Afghanistan.
Women for Afghan Women has been campaigning for the past two decades for the rights of women and girls in the country and is majority Afghan and Muslim operated. Right now they are fighting to keep their staff in-country and their families alive and well and are calling for donations.
Rukhshana Media, a female led organisation publishing work from Afghan women on the problems they face, is also asking for donations to help them survive. The organisation is named after a woman who was stoned to death by the Taliban in 2015 and was set up by journalist Zahra Joya last year. Appealing for donations CA$20,000 in order to keep going they have now hit CA$172,000 in just a few days.
The situation is desperate in Afghanistan but the important thing is to try and do what you can, whatever that may be. Donating where possible, educating yourself on the issues in the region and the tangled international political web that ensnares Afghanistan is a great start. Most of all, continuing the conversation and keeping it front of mind is going to be huge in the coming months and weeks. This problem is not going to go away any time soon.