Get Our Afghan Supporters to Safety
Update, August 15, 2021: Today Kabul fell to the Taliban, and now the entire country of Afghanistan is under the Taliban control. This doesn’t change my plea below on behalf of the Afghans who have risked their lives for years in support of the US mission in that country. In return for their risk and sacrifice they’d been promised safe departure. Despite the White House astonished and aghast reaction to how rapidly the take-over of the country happened, for those of us who have stayed in touch with the history and developments in Afghanistan, this was not a surprise. I am so brokenhearted and angry.
August 13, 2021
Dear President Biden:
I’m writing this message to urge you to do everything in your power to extract every interpreter, person in support of the US mission in Afghanistan, and his/her family from Afghanistan immediately. This means not only those that are still safe in Kabul, but those who can no longer get to Kabul for flights to safety. Many of these people would rather stay home in peace, but under the present circumstances now they need our help. Before the announcement to withdraw personnel from Afghanistan their lives had already been at risk as they supported US military and diplomatic functions and activities. When the announcement was abruptly made to withdraw, transportation from many in outlying areas presented an impossible risk for many of them.
I deeply appreciate the efforts to arrange SIVs for these courageous people. However, I am deeply concerned about the apparent lack of planning and preparation prior to the withdrawal announcement that would have circumvented the immediate threat to many of them from the Taliban. We owe all of them – families included – a huge debt of gratitude, security, and safe extraction. It’s horrific to think of what might happen to countless thousands of Afghans, and what can happen to girls and women and the progress made for them in inclusive leadership, employment, schooling, and authentic voice in general at the hands of the Taliban, given their demonstrated practices of violent control in the past and present. To not have made provisions well in place, implemented, and completed at least for Afghans working for the US mission prior to the announcement is a grievous lack of foresight. If there was such a plan of action that was in progress in a timely way prior to the announcement, this should have been reported and explained with all transparency along with the announcement to withdraw, especially for those of us whose hearts are with the people of Afghanistan.
As returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Afghanistan in the early ‘70s, my wife and I have followed this long struggle for Afghans to survive and thrive since we left. The coup d’état in 1973 when we were there, the assassination of President Daoud Khan, the assassination of Afghanistan US Ambassador Adolph Dubs, the subsequent rapid turnover in Afghanistan presidents marred by assassination after assassination, the US/USSR proxy war in that country, the assassination of the “Lion of Panjshir” Ahmad Massoud and the ensuing civil war, and the rise of the Taliban have left the country a continual disaster for any kind of day-to-day living and thriving. The US chase after Osama bin Laden further unsettled the country as that search escalated into our longest war. The picture military intervention from foreign governments into Afghanistan should be clear by now, something shown many prior times, including the aftermath of the US/USSR involvement in the 1980s, and three prior incursions by the British. The western mind has a hard time understanding the Afghan tribal thinking, and how that shapes the country’s indigenous approach to conflict and governance.
I have been a firm supporter of your campaign and election, am grateful for your domestic initiatives with a strong desire for bipartisan cooperation, and your desire to repair relations with our allies. I do get your dedication to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan quagmire, but I’m deeply disappointed in what we see as a disastrous gap in planning and action prior to the announcement that bodes a humanitarian disaster for the people of Afghanistan. We are joined by other Afghans living in the US and returned Peace Corps Afghanistan Volunteers like us in being heartbroken as the Taliban have nearly overtaken the country, and as the US will be fortunate just to extract US personnel and Afghan support personnel and their families from Kabul alone.
I urge you, then, to take all action necessary to make sure all Afghans employed in support of the US mission over the last 20 years and their families who wish to come are safely extracted from Afghanistan – including those areas already overtaken by the Taliban.