Every night terrified young men and women across the city send me desperate messages begging for help. “Pray for us,” says one. “The situation is critical, we are very worried,” says another.
Kabul is in a state of shock and disbelief. In the past week the Taliban has swept across the country and seized more than a dozen provincial capitals. With the fall of Kandahar and Herat, the insurgents now have their sights set on the greatest prize of all – the capital.
I’ve been reporting from Afghanistan for more than a decade. Over the years, I’ve spent time with journalists, female judges, female members of parliament, human rights activists and university students. Many have become good friends.
They all say the same thing – we stepped out on a limb because we were encouraged by the Americans and their allies to do so. For 20 years the West has inspired, financed and sheltered this new generation of Afghans. They have grown up with freedoms and opportunities that they fully embraced.
Now they tell me they feel completely abandoned by the democratic world they thought they were part of.
In my most recent trip to Kabul, I spoke to Taliban frontline commanders and foot soldiers. They told me they are determined to re-impose their version of Sharia law, which would include stoning for adultery, amputation of limbs for theft and preventing girls from going to school beyond the age of 12.
This is not the Afghanistan and the Kabul that these young women know or want. But as the Taliban prepare to march towards the capital, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to run or hide.
“There are rumours circulating that the Taliban will take over and they will kill everyone affiliated with the government and the US. We are very scared,” one told me.
The only response from the Americans and their Western allies to these pleas for help, for the moment, has been silence.