By / Sep 3

Earlier this week, the military completed its mission to evacuate American citizens, third-country nationals, and vulnerable Afghans from Afghanistan. Over the previous few weeks, more than 123,000 civilians were extracted in what was the largest noncombatant evacuation in the U.S. military’s history. Here is what you should know about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Why was the withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan conducted so suddenly? 

In February 2020, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw the U.S. military presence by May 29, 2021. President Biden renegotiated that agreement to complete withdrawal from Afghanistan to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. That deadline was moved up by the Biden administration to Aug. 31. 

The military withdrawal was completed on Aug. 30 at 3:20 p.m. EDT, officially ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan. 

How many Americans remain in Afghanistan, and what happens to them now?

In the weeks since the Taliban took control of major cities and the capital of Kabul, roughly 5,500 U.S. citizens were airlifted out of the country. There are between 100 to 200 Americans remaining in the country. President Biden has said that most of those remaining are dual citizens who did not want to leave because of family ties.

Biden has promised to help get out any Americans who still want to be extracted from the country. “For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline,” said Biden. “We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.” But getting those Americans out will now require diplomatic negotiation with the Taliban.

How many Afghan allies were extracted from the country?

From Aug. 14 to Aug. 31, U.S. military aircraft have evacuated more than 73,500 third-country nationals and Afghan civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital city of Kabul. That category includes those with special immigrant visas, consular staff, and at-risk Afghans as well as their families. Regarding those left behind, the ERLC joined other organizations in an Evangelical Immigration Table letter to President Biden and requested that the administration “keep our commitment to those at risk for their service to the United States and to others fleeing a credible fear of persecution globally.”

How many Afghan refugees will be coming to the U.S.?

The U.S. government is currently declining to say how many Afghan refugees have arrived in the U.S. since the evacuation from Kabul began last month. 

How many translators, interpreters, and other workers were extracted from the country?

Afghan nationals who worked for the U.S. government in such roles as translators and interpreters and who feared reprisal from the Taliban were allowed to apply for a special humanitarian visa.

In July 2021, the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act authorized 8,000 additional Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 34,500 visas allocated since Dec. 19, 2014. These visas were available to Afghan nationals who meet certain requirements and who were employed in Afghanistan by or on behalf of the U.S. government or by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission, in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform activities for the U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF. Afghans seeking SIVs must complete a 14-step application process that includes a visa interview and security screening.

An estimated 5,000 SIV applicants have already been evacuated from Afghanistan, according to a report released by the Association of Wartime Allies, a group advocating for SIV applicants in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is also a SIV program available to persons who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator or interpreter in Iran and Afghanistan. This program offered visas to up to fifty persons a year (plus spouse and children).

The Association of Wartime Allies estimates there are around 65,000 SIV applicants remaining in Afghanistan.

How much military equipment was left behind in Afghanistan?

The U.S. Central Command says that about 170 pieces of equipment were left in Kabul during the evacuation. The equipment left behind included 70 light tactical vehicles, 27 Humvees, and 73 aircraft. All of this equipment was demilitarized (i.e., rendered unusable for military purposes). The only equipment left operable were a couple of fire trucks and forklifts that could be used at the Kabul airport. 

By / Jul 26

The idea of home is a well-worn theme in stories and in movies. For many, home is a place of comfort, safety, familiarity, and respite. Home is never more desirable than when we have been away from it for a long period of time or have dealt with the difficulties of life. For those who have fought bravely for their country, I can only imagine the hope and joy that comes with the thought of going home.

Director Christopher Nolan’s latest film, “Dunkirk,” evokes that kind of longing. It feels entirely authentic. It is truly an impressive feat considering the list of lauded filmmakers who have gone before and tackled the stories of World War II. Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” was certainly authentic in that it showed the blood, guts, and brutality of war. As the story unfolded, we also saw man’s humanity through the quiet moments. What sets “Dunkirk” apart is that there are virtually no quiet moments. Its short runtime is filled with chaos and intensity almost from the very beginning. (Hans Zimmer’s unrelenting, ticking time-bomb score adds much to this feeling.) Boats are torpedoed, bombs are dropped, aerial dog fights happen just overhead, and bullets ricochet and rip through the metal hull of a small ship. Somehow we don’t even see much of the blood and guts. And in what I’m sure was a calculated decision, we never see the enemy. And yet, the noise, the shellings, the fear, and the absolute chaos (all heightened when viewed in 70mm IMAX) are what give it that authentic feeling, a feeling as if you were actually there. Nolan doesn’t cheat it with CGI and special effects either. The practical effects are exquisite. Even the dialogue is often difficult to understand. But that actually turns out to be a strong choice as it works to heighten the frantic nature of the true story.

In May 1940, several hundred thousand Allied troops were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk in France. Nazi Germany was on the move, and things looked bleak. So the call was put out to civilians to bring in every boat and vessel that could be found in order to cross the English Channel and rescue the troops. The communal effort was truly heroic.

The plot of the film is simple, but the execution, once again, sets it apart as a Christopher Nolan film. One of his strengths is certainly his writing. He has structured the film around three storylines happening on land, sea, and in the air. There are main characters in these storylines, but we never get to know them on any kind of personal level. The individual is not incredibly important to Nolan’s story. Instead, it is the community of men, struggling for survival amidst the chaos of war, that truly anchors the film. And at the heart of every soldier at Dunkirk, is the simple desire to go home.

The story of a retreat/rescue mission during World War II hardly seems like a tale worth telling. Typically we would sweep that part of history under the rug. After all, Dunkirk was not an Allied victory. And yet, despite the death and madness all around, Nolan has found a way to tell it and still end his film on an inspiring note.

No matter how deeply he entrenches us in the horrors of war, we are not without hope. Rescuers are just around the corner. I know and feel that our world is broken, yet I left the theater with hope as well. Even more so, for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ, our hope lies in the thought of one day leaving the madness of this world behind and finally going to our eternal Home.

By / Jul 27

I don’t write much about motherhood because I don’t know much yet. I have one son, and he’s just four years old.

But it doesn’t take experience to know what I’m called to do.

I am raising a warrior.

I’m not called to raise a cute conversation piece or a well-adjusted kid. I’m not laying down my life so that my son can be popular, cultured or gifted. I’m about the business of raising a warrior of wisdom who loves Jesus, for “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Through years of teaching other people’s kids, mentoring youth and counseling teenage girls in crisis, I saw and heard a lot. I don’t need years of parenting to know that the enemy of our souls wants to devour my son. It’s war out there, and I’m called to raise a warrior—to intercede for, train, love and prepare him “to shine . . . in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15).

And I’m scared.

I’m scared because I’m called to an unspeakable task—the nurture and care of an eternal soul. I’m just one insignificant woman who has monumental weaknesses.

I’m scared because I don’t get guarantees for how my son will turn out. Just because I train him to be a warrior, doesn’t mean he will be one. He has his own soul and accountability before God.

I’m scared of raising a young man in Southern California where flesh is god and entertainment is king, where souls are suffocated by sexual perversion and materialism and hostility toward Truth.

But God understands my fears and speaks to them. In Nehemiah 4, when the Israelites were working tirelessly to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, their enemies came to taunt them and thwart their efforts. Nehemiah rallied the people to continue their noble work in the midst of hostility and danger. He says,  in verse 14, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

Fight for your son, Colleen.

But how?

Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and don’t be afraid of

. . . weakness,

. . . evil,

. . . worst-case scenarios.

This great endeavor called motherhood is worth fighting the fear that accompanies it. Faith is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to believe God in the midst of great fear. Faith says, “I cannot, but God can.” Because God is great and awesome, and because His Spirit lives in me, I can fight for my son, for his eternal joy in Jesus, no matter what.

Fear vs. God

Fear complicates things and tempts me to find refuge in methods and formulas and reactions. What kind of education and home life and church and social circle will ensure my son’s safety and success?    

Fear takes my eyes off of Christ. When I fear, God gets small and my what-if’s get big. Unlike fear, God doesn’t complicate things. In Deuteronomy 6, He lays out the task of parenting with such simplicity it’s shocking: love God with everything I’ve got; keep His words close to my heart; then teach those words to my child as we go about our day together.

Fear makes the goal feel unattainable, but God says, “Colleen, do the next thing—and while you do it, tell your son about Me.” When I recall to mind what I am about (raising a warrior to shine in a crooked generation) and Who it is that’s actually accomplishing this impossible feat (Christ Jesus Himself!), I can move past my fears and faithfully plow the fertile soil of my son’s soul. 

In other words, I fight by faith. I believe God. I take Him at His word. And I fight on my knees. I pray. (I need to pray more.) A soul is at stake, and there is only One who can rescue and redeem him. So I talk to my Lord, I plead with Him, weep before Him for my son.

God has begun this good work in my motherhood, and He will be faithful to complete it. I will mess up a thousand times, and brokenness will mark my motherhood, but God always draws me back to Himself, to the cross and the empty tomb, reminding me that the power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in me.

I have only a handful of fleeting years to “train up my son in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but today is such a gift, and I have been given everything I need to accomplish the task of raising a warrior for God’s kingdom.