It was easy to open our doors to Afghan refugees 40 years ago because they were fleeing our adversaries, the Soviets. This time around, it may be tempting to forget about the Afghans because, after all, those of us who did not come from military families have had the luxury of rarely thinking about Afghanistan despite our near war. 20 years there.
But forgetting would punctuate the end of this war with lasting shame and dishonor for the United States. Having failed in the goal of nation building in Afghanistan that was never realistic to begin with, the least we can do is welcome Afghan refugees to the United States, where they can build a new one. home – and help rebuild our own nation, which needs the ingenuity, ingenuity and hard work of immigrants.
The first step must be simple: The United States must provide refuge to any Afghan national who has directly assisted that nation in the fight against the Taliban. This includes hundreds of interpreters, translators, and others who have worked for and with the US military and its diplomatic corps. As allies, they are likely targets of Taliban suspicion and revenge, and worthy recipients of refuge. United States law, history and conscience support evacuations and relocations. Many have left their countries of origin in recent months. Many more are counting on the United States to ensure the Taliban allow them safe passage to Kabul airport and to maintain evacuations.
President Joe Biden has pledged to stay at the airport until more than 10,000 US citizens are evacuated – but he should extend that pledge to all the Afghans who have helped us and want to get out. He should remind Americans that these Afghans actually helped us fight Islamist militants and extremists.
The second step is a more thorny dilemma: what about the Afghan journalists, teachers, professionals and traders who opposed the Taliban and supported the American presence or the national government, risking their lives and their families? ? What about the tens of thousands who have been born, educated and parented in Afghanistan over the past two decades with the expectation of civil rights and ambitions for their children – hopes instilled by the American presence and dashed? by its release? What about the many women and girls for whom the past 20 years have represented a measure of freedom unknown in their country before, and unlikely to be experienced in the near future?
Two-thirds of Afghans are under 25; a whole generation grew up in the shadow of the American occupation. Having benefited from American educators, American charities and American relief programs, many will not want to go back. Many may wish to become Americans themselves.
Refugees and their descendants are an integral part of American society.
The United States should not limit its aid to Afghans who were employed by the United States and who are now eligible for special immigrant visas. He should actively aid, evacuate and help resettle Afghans who are trying to escape the Taliban regime. It should grant temporary protection status to Afghans, as it has done with nationals of more than 20 other troubled countries, including Venezuela, Syria and Somalia.
We have learned, and unlearned, and learned again that we cannot save the world with a military invasion. The best we can do is clean up after our failures, and that includes taking not only those who have helped us – again, this is the easy part – but those who are in the most immediate danger in countries where we failed.