With the recent decision to remove US troops from Afghanistan, a decision that was made far too late, there is now another crisis that has been created, that of the 88,000 allies that the US has a duty to protect.
Current US president Joe Biden has decided to finally end the more than two decades long war in Afghanistan. This is an occupation that I would argue should have never occurred in the first place. Of course this is not to say that the Taliban ruling Afghanistan will be good for the citizens of the country, it will almost certainly be disastrous, especially for women. However, America didn’t have any good choices in terms of allies in Afghanistan. They were essentially between a house of cards government that the US helped to set up, which fell almost immediately after they left, warlords with child sex slaves, of which US service members who reported their crimes were told to keep quiet, the Taliban, who wants to subjugate women back into the middle ages, or ISIS, who has been fighting the Taliban in the region. With no good options for allies and an increasing number of civilian casualties and a growing financial cost of keeping the seemingly futile war going, it seems increasingly hard to justify continued occupation. While I personally support the pulling out of US service members and contractors (who should not exist), the way in which the US rapidly pulled out troops has led to potentially deadly consequences of its own.
There are a large number of individuals that have helped the US during its time in Afghanistan. These individuals include people that helped with strategy in the fight against the Taliban, translators, and people that gave quarter to troops. All told these numbers tally up to around 88,000 people that may be in grave danger because of the assistance they gave to American forces. While some may be able to stay at their current positions without much fear of reprisals, it is likely that many more will face violent persecution for helping the former Afghan government or US forces, there have already been reports of revenge killings in the country.
Due to its poor handling of the invasion and withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US has a responsibility to care for these people, to assure that they have safe passage out of the country. There are already heartbreaking videos coming out of people trying to board American planes out of the country, and even allegations of US troops firing into the air in response to crowding at the airport, which seems like it may not be the best tactic to calm people fearing for their lives. There have also been five deaths reported at the airport as well.
Unfortunately for these civilians, it appears that the US didn’t have a plan to help them, and still doesn’t. Currently the US had only accepted about 2,000 such refugees into the country, though it seems there may be plans to take in more, hopefully a lot more. The US departments of Defense and State released a statement saying “…over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.” Such statements, along with increasing American troop presence at the airport in Kabul could give some hope that the US could be creating a system to help evacuate those in danger, however, the fact that flights have already ceased is worrying, though the Biden administration is asking the Taliban to resume commercial flights to allow people the option to leave, that is if they can afford it. There have also been done recent US provided flights that again give some life to the idea that America could still do the right thing.
Not only is it the moral thing to do because it is in part due to the US invasion and these Afghans subsequent assistance that resulted in their lives being put at risk, but there is also very positive historical president for such a mass migration. We only need to look at another failed US war, that of Vietnam.
As the North Vietnamese gained a greater foothold in the waning days of the Vietnam War, many in the south feared for their lives, and with good reason. As the US pulled out, they mostly withdrew American citizens, similar to the developing situation in Afghanistan unfortunately. Though they did help some Vietnamese citizens as well. Thankfully the US government also increased the number of immigrants allowed to enter the US after the pullout.
While there should have been a more uniform withdrawal that allowed for those that were likely to be persecuted to be helped out of the country before the US fled, at least the US helped to allow for more immigrants to enter from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. While many may not know it now, this decision was incredibly unpopular at the time with the majority of Americans, 62%, disapproving of this according to a poll done by The New York Times and CBS at the time. However, the Carter administration, which I do not have much love for, decided to do the right thing and double monthly immigration of these people from 7,000 to 14,000 every month.
Again, if they had created a system to get these people, as many as possible, out before a full US withdrawal, there would have been much less violence again those trying to flee, often referred to as “boat people”. Many were forced to flee through potentially hostile countries and we’re often abused or even killed, the same fate awaited many who were unable to flee. This blood is at least partially on the hands of the American government as they decided not to help these people initially after invading and then fleeing.
Thankfully many families did reach the the US, either through US assisted evacuation or by escaping themselves through other countries. Many such immigrants are now thriving in America. Vietnamese immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute in 2012, command am estimated $55,736 in median yearly income. Pew Research has also shown that they have reached educational attainments on par, or in some cases even surpassing other American groups.
These numbers show us that when America is willing to bring in immigrants and help them assimilate while simultaneously allowing them to share their unique perspectives and culture, it generally works out in everyone’s favor. Even more good news for the Biden administration is that public opinion seems to support this idea as well.
According to Gallop polling, 77% of Americans think that immigration is good for the country. So it seems pretty clear that not only does America have a clear moral impetus to help resettle these people, but also that many Americans would likely support such actions.
This is not to say that, whatever percentage of these 88,000 people that would like to leave Afghanistan, must all go to the US, though this number of people shouldn’t be a problem at all if that is where they would like to resettle. If they are able to be settled in other countries that will protect them and treat them with dignity and respect, that seems acceptable. However, the US should invest resources into their resettlement and work with international organizations to make sure that violence does not befall them. America has already spent around $2 TRILLION on the war in Afghanistan, with interest they’re looking at $6.5 trillion by 2050, so cost appears like it shouldn’t be an issue as the establishment in both major parties in the US has seemingly not cared about costs up until this point (remember that when they talk about not being able to afford publicly subsidized education and health care).
My sincere hope is that the US decides to do the morally correct thing and help these people find sanctuary from the violent and oppressive regime now in power in Afghanistan.