ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — On Tuesday, the Taliban announced they would not allow Afghans to leave the country. It’s something one American musician and teacher in the war-torn country has feared the most.
In 2014, Los Angeles-based musician Lanny Cordola visited war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan. He was so inspired that two years later, he moved there to begin teaching young Afghan girls how to play the guitar.
“We started off with four girls. Within two months, we had 40 girls. Within a year, we had hundreds of girls. You know, it was amazing,” said Cordola.
Through the nonprofit Miraculous Love Kids, he started the Girl with a Guitar project, playing melodies with Afghan street children.
“Our model is well-being, education, and guitar. Part of the well-being is getting the girls off the street and giving them a stipend,” he said.
With the girls on guitar and vocals, they’ve collaborated with numerous musicians like Sammy Hagar and Brian Wilson.
“No offense to any of them, but nothing compares to sharing and playing music with these beautiful girls.”
But now, with the Taliban ousting the Afghan government and the complete withdrawal of American troops looming, he fears for the safety of these young girls and their future in what could be returning to a brutal regime.
Cordola says he’s concerned that the girls taking part in his program are now in danger.
“Very concerned. That's why I'm working 24/7, talking to every government embassy, private organization to get all of the girls out.”
We spoke to Cordola who is now in neighboring Pakistan. He traveled there on one of the last commercial flights out just days ago.
“They mean everything to me. They're family to me. They're like my daughters. You know, some of them don't have fathers. So, I’ve become like a father,” said Cordola.
Though the Taliban has pledged to continue to allow women to work and girls to go to school, some worry that will change once the international community leaves.
“People that are on our team have said it's just horrific. They're there, you know, killing and beating and maiming and just, you know, everything they said they're not going to do, which we all know what they stand for, is happening,” said Cordola.
Scenes of chaos at the Kabul airport have only heightened his sense of urgency. Thousands are camped outside hoping to escape.
When asked about evacuation for the girls in Lanny’s program, a State Department spokesperson said that Afghans at risk and in need of protection are considered among groups that may receive priority assistance. However, what that means practically on the ground for these girls is not clear.
Cordola says he has remained in constant contact with his students. He continues to raise funds and connect with anyone willing to help. But while he knows time is running out, he remains focused and determined.
“I will never give up. I will truly stand at the gates of hell to do anything to get these girls out.”