The United States will have to work with the Taliban

After the military debacle of the Afghan government, the United States has no choice, believes this specialist in the region. They will have to work with the new power in place in Kabul and with the regional powers which now have control.

The American adventure in Afghanistan ended much faster than expected. I, who have followed events in Afghanistan since 1978, have been puzzled, like so many others, by the speed with which the government of President Ashraf Ghani and the Afghan national defense and security forces, trained by the United States, have lost the provincial capitals one after the other. Now it’s time for Washington to think about the next Afghanistan. We will have to find a new strategic line, and it will not be easy.

The first challenge concerns the precarious situation of the thousands of Afghans who have worked with American civil and military organizations. Many of these people rightly fear they will be arrested and jailed, if not worse, once the Taliban tightens their grip on the country. The United States must offer them political asylum.

This sort of thing has been done before. Remember Operation New Life, the post-Vietnam War program put in place by various government agencies, including the State and Defense Departments, as well as private organizations, which gave political asylum to 140,000 people from Cambodia and Vietnam to the United States and other countries.

Stirring up the migrant’s fear

If the Biden government agrees to welcome our former collaborators, politicians, pundits and the right-wing media will quickly jump at the chance to stoke the fear of the migrant. The president and foreign officials must take the lead and explain to the American public why reaching out to the Afghans who have helped the United States is a good thing and why the pros far outweigh the cons.

The Afghans who worked for American organizations will not be the only ones wanting to leave the country, however. Tens of thousands more, if not more, will seek safety in neighboring countries like Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. So many countries that do not have the means to house, feed and take care of such a large number of refugees. Providing them with assistance, both financial and material, is a responsibility that falls on the United States more than any other country, and that burden also includes the millions of internally displaced Afghans.



Rajan Menon

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