After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan for two reasons: to kill Osama Bin Laden and to overthrow the Taliban. While the latter happened quickly, the U.S. then had the responsibility to set up a new Afghan government to try to prevent the formation of new terrorist organizations within its borders. In the 20 years the US spent helping stabilize the new Afghan government, our own actions fostered the revival of the Taliban.
In an attempt to maintain security for those working to build infrastructure in Afghanistan, the U.S. engaged in airstrikes targeted at insurgent groups, mostly in the rural areas of the country. These airstrikes, however, killed many innocent civilians. According to Brown University, rates of civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan increased by more than 600% from 2014 to 2019. In these rural areas, support for the Taliban grew, mostly out of hatred toward the US military. The Taliban continued to gain footing throughout Afghanistan and eventually made its way to the capital, Kabul, where the US-supported government fell after the US military withdrew from the region.
There is widespread fear that the Taliban will invoke some form of Islamic law that was in place during its pre-9/11 reign in Afghanistan. One concern is the further oppression of Afghan women, who already have been restricted by the Taliban from going to school and working some jobs.
Life is changing for the worse for much of the Afghan population, and naturally, many of them want to leave the country. However, many nations don’t have the means to accept these refugees and even fewer want them.
Take the U.S., for example. According to a poll done by CBS, Over 81% of Americans said the U.S. should support Afghans who worked with U.S. troops and officials in recent years. President Joe Biden also just announced an increase in the refugee cap from 62,500 to 125,000, which all seems good until you look a little beyond the number.
Due to policies implemented under former President Donald Trump, the bureaucratic infrastructure necessary for admitting refugees into the U.S. is not robust enough to process 125,000 refugees in a year.
In fact, only about 7,500 official refugees have settled in the U.S. since Biden became president. If the current administration doesn’t take steps to ensure we have a functional system for letting in refugees, it doesn’t matter how high the refugee cap is — the 88,000 Afghans seeking asylum in the U.S. are going to have to undergo a long, inefficient process.
Because of our responsibility for the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the U.S. ought to expand the system for letting refugees into our country and fund similar efforts in other countries accepting refugees.
In the case of Afghanistan, most refugees are fleeing to surrounding countries like Pakistan and Iran, both of which are reluctant to accept more immigrants because they simply don’t have the means to do so.
What the U.S. can do, however, is pledge more money to non-governmental organizations in Afghanistan to avoid a humanitarian crisis.
As of Sept. 24, the U.S. had pledged only $64 million in aid to NGOs. To put that in perspective, we spent about $300 million each day fighting the war in Afghanistan over the last two decades.
It’s clear the U.S. could do more to solve a problem we created. We are responsible for the oncoming refugee crisis, and it’s up to us to make sure Afghan refugees get asylum.