The US must do more to help the Afghanistan people

Jordan Reid is the founding editor of Ramshackle Glam.
Liberal Opinion

Jordan Reid

Author; Founding Editor, Ramshackle Glam
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Afghanistan is in the grips of a humanitarian crisis. In the year since the U.S. military withdrawal and the Taliban seized power, the economy has collapsed and millions are in danger of starvation. Straight Arrow News contributor Jordan Reid says America bears some responsibility for the plight of the Afghan people due to decades of misguided strategies that created an aid-dependent state. She says it’s imperative the U.S. do more to help the Afghan people.

For two decades, administrations across aisles worked to create a tremendously aid-dependent Afghan state without seriously investing in a political infrastructure that would ensure ongoing peace. And now we’re seeing the fallout of this failure. And to those who want to focus on the problems in America — America first — I do hear you. We are all battered, exhausted, we are just wracked by fears of everything from economic insecurity to ever-escalating gun violence, and it’s easy to say, “Hey, what is happening over there is not my problem.” 

All this is exacerbated by the fact that uncertainty exists with regards to how humanitarian funds will be allocated in the Taliban-ruled country, thereby disincentivizing U.S. donors to provide aid. Is engaging with the regime legitimizing it, or even directly funding it? It’s a fair question. And the answer to, “Will some of the proffered aid fall into Taliban hands” is, unfortunately, yes.

But the prevention of an even greater humanitarian catastrophe than the one that the Afghani people are facing now requires that we accept that efforts will inevitably involve some degree of liaising with the Taliban, as well as a reasonable degree of certainty that yes, some humanitarian aid — but, crucially, not all — will end up in Taliban control.

Here is a list of organizations working to provide aid to the Afghan people:

The World Food Program

UNICEF

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The International Committee of the Red Cross

The Norwegian Refugee Council

Aga Khan Development Network

A year ago, the world watched, stunned, during the disastrous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The initiative, which started with the Trump Administration’s poorly thought-out Doha Agreement and knee-capped by Trump’s hollowing-out of the State Department, but was also unquestionably handled with profound incompetence by the Biden Administration, was a horror show from start to finish. With images of babies being hauled over walls at the Kabul Airport and desperate people falling to their deaths from airborne planes seared into our collective memory. 

A year later, in part due to the understandable exhaustion that comes with a daily litany of Defcon-1 level hysteria courtesy of the news cycle, the “story” – which, let’s remember, is a matter of daily life for the Afghan people – is only intermittently headline news. So because a limited attention span when it comes to suffering isn’t a courtesy afforded to our fellow human beings, let’s look at where Afghanistan is now. 

When the Taliban took over, more rapidly than I think anyone had anticipated, advances in human rights – specifically women’s rights – and media freedom were rolled back almost immediately. Millions of Afghans face severe and life-threatening food insecurity due to a loss of income paired with skyrocketing costs. A U.N. report of the 10 months following the withdrawal documented extrajudicial assassinations, torture, and dramatic cutbacks in free press, peaceful protest, and women’s and girls’ access to everything from education to mobility.

Is what’s happening to the Afghan people the responsibility of the United States government? In large part…yes. For two decades, administrations across aisles worked to create a tremendously aid-dependent Afghan state without seriously investing in a political infrastructure that would ensure ongoing peace.

And now we’re seeing the fallout of this failure. And to those who want to focus on the problems in America – America first – I do hear you. We are all battered, exhausted, we are just racked by fears of everything from economic insecurity to ever-escalating gun violence, and it’s easy to say, “Hey, what is happening over there is not my problem.” 

All this is exacerbated by the fact that uncertainty exists with regards to how humanitarian funds will be allocated in the Taliban-ruled country, thereby disincentivizing US donors to provide aid. Is engaging with the regime legitimizing it, or even directly funding it?

It’s a fair question. And the answer to, “will some of the proffered aid fall into Taliban hands” is, unfortunately, yes. But the prevention of an even greater humanitarian catastrophe than the one that the Afghani people are facing now requires that we accept that efforts will inevitably involve some degree of liaising with the Taliban, as well as a reasonable degree of certainty that yes, some humanitarian aid – but, crucially, not all – will end up in Taliban control. 

Is that a hard pill to swallow? Of course it is. And the July airstrike targeting al-Qaeda leader only underscores the ongoing terrorist threat posed to the United States. It makes sense to approach the issue of aid allocation with caution, and if you check out the links below this video, you’ll find a list of excellent organizations that are working with leaders inside the country to deliver aid to the people who desperately need it. 

Importantly, though, “caution” doesn’t preclude action, and the moral and reputational consequences of abandoning those who have been endangered as a direct consequence of their support for the United States – as well as human beings suffering near-famine consequences through no fault of their own – are severe, and would only serve to further destabilize our standing in the international community. 

It’s not a question of America first, or America second. It’s an intersectional issue – one that cannot, and must not, be sidelined.


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