The war in Afghanistan, often lurking just out of view for most Americans, has suddenly grabbed our attention as we watched video images of desperate Afghans crowding into the Kabul airport hoping and pleading for deliverance from the Taliban.
The U.S. had ended the Taliban’s violent and oppressive regime nearly 20 years ago when it went to war in Afghanistan after the Al Queda terrorist group used the country as a base to launch its attacks on 9/11. But the Taliban has rolled back into power, taking control of the country and forcing the Afghan government leaders to flee.
Many Afghans, remembering the Taliban’s first regime, are fearful of what will happen next to their country. And for the thousands who helped the U.S. and non-governmental organizations during this long war, they are particularly fearful of the fate that awaits them and their families under the Taliban.
When President Biden announced earlier this year that all U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of August, he promised that we would help those who aided the U.S. war effort leave the country. That process appears to have proceeded much too slowly, particularly in light of the lightning speed with which the Taliban routed government forces.
Many of our allies are still in Afghanistan feeling trapped and afraid. The United States has an obligation to protect them from the vengeance of the Taliban and get them to a safe place.
“We have known that the withdrawal of American forces and evacuation of vulnerable Afghans, including those who supported our military or worked with NGOs and other organizations, would be a complicated process that had the potential for instability in Afghanistan,” said a statement released by Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“The images and videos coming out of the country are difficult to view, as people make life or death decisions in desperation,” they added. The bishops called on the U.S. to “act with utmost urgency considering all available avenues to preserve life.”
As the bishops said in their statement, time is of the essence.
For their part, the bishops pledged to continue working to help relocate those Afghans who helped the U.S. during the war. The USCCB, Catholic Charities and other agencies have been assisting the U.S. government in working with SIV applicants at Fort Lee, south of Richmond, Virginia.
“We will continue to work as long as necessary until those who are in harm’s way are brought to safety,” the bishops said.
That should be the mission of the U.S. government as well.