ANDERSON, Ind. – When Jan Miller hears the news of the Taliban takeover and the return to Sharia law in Afghanistan, Jan Miller is sad and terrified for her friends there and is desperate to find ways to help them expedite visas that would enable them to leave the country.
Miller made these friends during six trips to the troubled Middle Eastern nation to manage a partnership between Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and Kabul University. The partnership was supported by grants from the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development.
“I have very close friendships with some people. You protected us. They took care of me, “she said of her 2014-2018 visits.” I just wish we had better systems to take care of the people who take care of us. “
Miller and Anderson University President John Pistole each share personal perspectives of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s sudden takeover on Sunday that panicked those who supported the Western allies in the war on terror.
Miller, who worked for Habitat for Humanity in Madison County after the Ball State program ran out of grants, keeps in touch with her Afghan friends through social media. She is cautious about sharing her posts and photos for fear of government retaliation, especially under a new regime known from past experience for its brutality.
“These are real people with real families. It’s easy for us to see these nameless people out there, ”she said. “They are different, but in many ways they are just like us. It is men and women who have children and are looking for security for themselves and their families. “
To help, Miller tried to use their connections but was frustrated. She felt a little guilty about not having started helping her friends get out of Afghanistan sooner.
“It’s hard to know who to talk to because so many ambassadors have already left,” she said. “I think everyone was shocked at the speed the Taliban have taken. I thought we had a few months. “
Miller said she was worried about the Afghan women she knew because many had no internet and couldn’t go to internet cafes.
She is particularly concerned about a woman who has no living male relatives, a problem in a regime that previously did not allow women to go out in public unaccompanied.
“If the Taliban let women leave the house again without male relatives, what will they do?”
Pistole, FBI assistant director from 2004 to 2010, said there is never really a good time to get out of a war where there is no winner. But like Miller, he was surprised by the Taliban’s rapid rise when the US recalled its military forces.
“I think it confirms the president’s decision because it seems that the US presence was the only thing holding the Taliban back.”
Although he sympathizes with the people of Afghanistan, Pistole said the real mission to capture Osama bin Laden and shut down al-Qaeda was accomplished a long time ago.
“Will this be a never ending war or will we as a country make a decision to end this now?” he said. “I think where we get into trouble, we try to bring a democracy to a completely different world of tribal loyalty, culture and belief.”
Gun that maintains a security clearance describes the Taliban as a nationalist rather than a terrorist group. He doesn’t think it poses a direct threat to US security. As heroin producers and importers, its members pose a certain threat to American society. The Taliban use funds from the heroin trade to support them.
“I see the Taliban as neither a current nor an emerging terrorist threat to US interests,” said Pistole. “You never planned terrorist attacks against the United States.”
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