Opinion | Did America Betray Afghanistan?

Opinion | Did America Betray Afghanistan?

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The United States has an obligation to welcome these people, too, the Times columnist Michelle Goldberg argues. Arash Azizzada, an Afghan American community organizer and a co-founder of Afghans for a Better Tomorrow, pointed out to her that the United States “has spent 20 years encouraging young people and women’s rights activists ‘to take the lead, to break barriers, to take part in civil society in Afghanistan,’” and they are now in danger because of it. Noting that Canada, which is about one-ninth the size of the United States, has pledged to in take more than 20,000 Afghan refugees, Goldberg says “180,000 should be the absolute floor” for the United States.

The idea of mass refugee admissions has found supporters across the political spectrum; former President Donald Trump said in a statement that “civilians and others who have been good to our country” should be allowed to “seek refuge.”

Some on the right, however, have cast Afghan refugees as a demographic threat. “If history is any guide, and it’s always a guide, we will see many refugees from Afghanistan resettle in our country in the coming months, probably in your neighborhood,” Tucker Carlson said Monday night on his show on Fox News. “So first we invade, and then we are invaded.”

The Biden administration seems to be taking the opposition seriously. It announced two weeks ago that it would expand refugee eligibility for Afghans “who may be at risk due to their U.S. affiliation,” but they must first receive a referral from a current or former employer and get themselves and their families into a third country without any U.S. assistance. “It’s like they want the credit from liberals for ending the Trump cruelty to immigrants and refugees but they also don’t want the political backlash that comes from actual refugees arriving in America in any sort of large numbers,” one administration official told Politico.

Some believe that the U.S. government owes not just resettlement rights but also reparations to Afghan civilians. “Throughout history, the losers of wars have had to pay reparations, though typically to the regimes and not people,” the journalist Spencer Ackerman writes. “But it is people whom the U.S. owes, not regimes.”

It would be a worthwhile project, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies says, but complicated to carry out: “There is no viable government that is not completely invested in corruption of every sort, and there’s not ever been the chance for Afghan civil society, particularly on a national level, to develop to the point where it could absorb the kind of large-scale financial contributions that are required from the U.S.” for its damage to the country.


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