Despite a two-decade investment of blood and treasure by the United States, the Afghanistan government seems unprepared to prevent the Taliban from wreaking havoc.
The United States can’t fix that. It can make sure that the Afghans who believed in and trusted America enough to help it try are neither left behind nor left out.
Between 2004 and 2014, the U.S. admitted more than 48,600 Afghans through a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program in recognition of the risks taken by those who were willing to work with American soldiers and military contractors. Many who did the same thing are now desperately trying to get themselves and their families to safety as America rushes to end its military presence there and leave.
President Joe Biden promised that the U.S. would not turn its back on these Afghans as the Taliban tightens its grip. After too-long delays, 221 interpreters, drivers and others finally arrived on American soil last week. About 2,500 will do the same in coming days.
It’s a start, but not enough. The need for additional paperwork approvals may divert another 4,000 refugees to Qatar, Kuwait, Kazakhstan and Kosovo if diplomatic negotiations are successful.
TV images of American helicopters leaving desperate people behind on the roof of the Saigon embassy at the end of the Vietnam War are burned into the memories of those old enough to have watched. An Afghan version of this horror should not be repeated.
The government should sort out paperwork and address security risks later. The thousands of helpers who have applied for SIVs have to be airlifted to Guam or American bases before it is too late to cover their retreat.
Those who make it to America won’t find it an easy transition. This is a different culture. Family members left behind will often be in danger. Speaking their own language, even to their children, will too often prompt discomfort when someone thoughtlessly growls, “Speak English.”
The Olympic Games have provided an example of why we should be aggressive in helping those who helped us. Last week, Sunisa Lee won the all-around gold medal in gymnastics. Lee is Hmong-American.
The Laotian Hmong helped Americans in that long-ago Southeast Asian war. Like Afghans now, they came as refugees to live in peace and give their children a future. The result is an exceptional athlete and a fine young citizen.
The United States must not abandon any of its Afghan helpers. This nation’s honor is at stake. So is its future.
“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to email@example.com.