In the frantic final days of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan following 20 years of war, American troops helped evacuate about a half million refugees, mainly Afghan soldiers and civilian contractors, along with their families. Their lives have been turned upside down, not just by the Taliban’s takeover of the country, but also by America’s involvement in two decades of war and bloodshed.
The United States has a responsibility to help rebuild the lives of these displaced people. However, most of them have been simply moved to neighboring countries with no clear plan for resettlement, and very few are coming to this country, thanks to strict quotas and a complicated application process.
The Biden administration has set a limit of 62,250 refugees it will resettle in the United States, but only a fraction of that number has actually arrived.
America needs to do better.
For the past 20 years, the U.S. military has worked with the Afghan National Army and many Afghan civilians to aid them during the Afghanistan War. Afghanistan’s armed forces fought alongside the U.S. military for years and civilians have served in key roles such as translators, drivers and pilots.
Now, those who have worked with the U.S. are at an extreme risk of retaliation by the Taliban, the group that now controls the country.
Protection has been given to Afghanistan civilians who lived in U.S.-occupied areas such as Kabul since the fall of the Taliban’s regime in the 1990s. Since the exit of U.S. forces on Aug. 31, the Taliban has vowed to take these freedoms away.
The Taliban has already shown its intent to govern the country on a basis of violence and control. They regularly violate human rights as they force men and women to adhere to strict rules regulating what they can wear, do and consume in media, and punish those found guilty of crimes with public torture and execution.
At the recent ongoing Afghanistan protests against the Taliban’s violence and authoritarianism, civilians were tear gassed and attacked for expressing rebellion.
The Taliban has a history of mercilessly punishing anyone who opposes them, and the Afghans left behind are not safe, especially those who can be deemed as traitors for working with the U.S.
After years of helping the U.S. military, the least we can do is to provide Afghan civilians with shelter in our country as thousands of people remain in Afghanistan, unprotected and under the control of the Taliban after the longest war in U.S. history. It is our moral imperative to do so.