Pope asks for prayers for Afghanistan

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People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2021. During his Angelus address Aug. 15, Pope Francis expressed his concern for Afghanistan amid the Taliban’s control of the country. PHOTO: CNS/Reuters

Hours before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, Pope Francis expressed his hope for the peace and safety of the country’s citizens.

“I join in the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan. I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace, so that the clamour of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue,” the pope said on 15 August during his Angelus address.

Only through dialogue, he added, “can the battered population of that country — men, women, elderly and children — return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.”

“I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace” – Pope Francis

The Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a US-led coalition nearly 20 years ago, began taking over large swaths of the country as US forces withdrew.

According to The Associated Press, Taliban fighters entered the presidential palace after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

In February 2020, the Trump administration signed a peace agreement with the Taliban and agreed to withdraw its forces by May 2021 in exchange for the group’s promise to cut ties with al-Qaida and cease attacks on American troops.

Taliban fighters stand outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, 16 August, 2021. During his Angelus address on 15 August, Pope Francis expressed his concern for Afghanistan amid the Taliban’s control of the country. PHOTO: CNS/Reuters

In April, President Joe Biden announced a complete withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan by 11 September — the 20th anniversary of the attacks on US soil coordinated by al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden, who received protection from the Taliban.

However, as Taliban fighters took control of the country, Biden announced on 8 July that the US “military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on 31 August”.

The US invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 in a bid to dismantle al-Qaida and force the Taliban from power. More than 2,300 US soldiers have died in the 20-year conflict, the longest war in US history, and thousands of Afghan civilians were killed and displaced as a result of the conflict, according to the UN Mission in Afghanistan.

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