Washington, DC – In the last few weeks, we have watched Kabul fall to the Taliban and United States-led evacuations begin immediately. Beginning August 14, more than 124,000 people, including American citizens, Afghans who worked for U.S. and allied forces, and other at-risk Afghans, were evacuated by the U.S. and coalition partners. And yesterday, we saw the last U.S. flight depart Hamid Karzai International Airport, officially marking the end of our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan.
Alongside the human tragedy the world has witnessed over the last few weeks, we’ve also watched America’s diplomats work tirelessly to process and care for refugees, pilots fill their planes with evacuees, veterans overcome unfathomable obstacles to guide families to safety, and elected leaders and communities provide housing and meals to Afghans now forced to start their lives anew.
We also saw 13 U.S. service members make the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to save lives. Over the past 20 years, nearly 800,000 U.S. troops rotated through Afghanistan at least once, and nearly 30,000 saw at least five deployments. 2,365 American service members were killed and over 20,000 were injured. Our presence in Afghanistan placed too great a burden on our military and military families and we want to thank them and honor them for their service.
As committed advocates for U.S. diplomacy, Foreign Policy for America wants to thank Ambassador Ross Wilson and his team, as well as the hundreds of other State Department employees who worked around the world to get as many Americans and Afghans to safety as possible. And we commend President Biden and Secretary Blinken’s commitment to continue to work to get out any other American who wants to leave Afghanistan.
FP4A supported ending this war, which went on far too long and at far too great a cost. We reject the idea that an unending U.S. military presence is the only way to support the people of Afghanistan. But even as our soldiers return home, our responsibilities – to our allies, to those in dire humanitarian need, and to our own values as a country – endure. As Secretary Blinken said yesterday, “our commitment to them has no deadline.”
It’s now time to look forward at what comes next. We call on the administration and Congress to do the following:
Support Afghan refugees
FP4A will continue to call for the safe relocation of Afghan refugees, including SIV and P1 and P2 visa holders, humanitarian parolees, and other Afghans at acute risk, even after today’s August 31st deadline. The United States has a moral obligation to ensure safe passage of our Afghan partners and their families who have bravely sacrificed alongside U.S. service members for two decades. The U.S. must adjust the refugee admissions cap to a number adequate to meet the current need. Finally, we recognize that many Afghans who are not currently eligible for entry to the United States are also fleeing the Taliban. We will call on President Biden to enact policies that support refugee populations and host countries in the region and ensure Afghan refugees receive the international legal protections to which they are entitled.
Support Afghan people
FP4A will call on the Biden administration to commit to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people through United Nations organizations and trusted NGO partners. We reject the assertion that the only way to stand up for the Afghan people was to commit to an indefinite military occupation. We will demand that the Biden administration ensures human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls, are part of any and all future diplomacy with the Taliban or other political actors in Afghanistan moving forward.
Recommit the U.S. to diplomacy-first foreign policy
America’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean a withdrawal of American leadership on the world stage. But it reinforces the need for ramped up investment in diplomacy, foreign aid, and other sources of U.S. power and influence. As Secretary Blinken said, the military mission has ended, but the diplomatic mission is just beginning. FP4A continues to push for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran and for the United States to help fill a leadership vacuum on pressing global issues like climate change and COVID-19. We believe to accomplish all of this, the administration and Congress must ensure our foreign service professionals are equipped and empowered to meet this difficult moment.
“It’s time to end this war. I respect and appreciate the President’s firm decision and his empathy for American service members and their families that led him to that conclusion,” said Foreign Policy for America Executive Director Andrew Albertson. “What comes next is our opportunity and responsibility to welcome our Afghan partners. I have been inspired by the courageous Afghans who, like so many generations of American stories past, are driven by love for their families to come to our country and enrich our communities. They still hold onto hope. And though the war is over, our partnership with the Afghan people lives on.”