Talking Points

Biden must protect the Afghans who helped American troops

The United States is finally going to end the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan in the coming months. Though some American forces will remain, they will no longer be propping up the current Afghan state. The probable result is that the government, which already does not control much of the country and is profoundly riddled with corruption (thanks in large part to the clumsy American occupation) will fall apart, and the Taliban will retake power. Indeed, it's already happening.

When that happens, the thousands of Afghans — mainly interpreters — who have helped American forces will face a dire threat. The Taliban is likely to exact fatal retribution on anyone who helped the U.S. occupation, including their families.

There is a program to allow such people to get U.S. visas, but as Jeff Schogol explains at Task & Purpose, it is mired in bureaucratic delays. Some 18,000 Afghans have applied through the program, but only a fifth have gotten initial approval, and even then, many steps remain before they can enter the U.S. "Even if the State Department tripled the number of staffers processing visa requests and had them work around the clock, it would still take about three years to get through the backlog," he writes.

Time is very short. America troops may be gone by July, and as Schogol notes at that point the Taliban will likely start shelling Kabul and knock the airport out of commission. However, there is an obvious solution here. President Biden could simply fly all the Afghans to the U.S., grant them Temporary Protected Status, and hire a bunch more staff to process the paperwork backlog. Given the stupendous damage inflicted on Afghanistan by the decades of American occupation, it's the least we could do.

This isn't the first time the U.S. has started an ill-advised occupation and ended up slinking back home with its tail between its legs. But after the Vietnam War was lost, America still accepted some 200,000 Southeast Asian refugees who might have been killed otherwise, and provided funding for their resettlement, eventually creating thriving Vietnamese communities in several states. If Biden doesn't do something quick, blood will be on his hands.