US forces managed to board more than 76,000 Afghans on evacuation flights last summer as they fled the pandemonium of Kabul’s sudden fall to the Taliban. That airlift, despite the backdrop of an embarrassingly chaotic military withdrawal, was a stunning display of US ingenuity, resources and resolve.
But even as Washington has continued arranging for Afghans to depart their country and be granted admission here — nearly 10,000 have arrived since the fall — thousands more who aided the US war effort, and their immediate family members, have been left behind. Those severed families — children, husbands and wives wrenched apart during the turmoil of the sudden US exit — were the subject of a heart-rending article by The Post’s Abigail Hauslohner. It was a timely reminder of this country’s unpaid moral debt to a cohort of people whose lives have been torn asunder, and in many cases endangered, in the aftermath of the two-decade-long US presence in Afghanistan.
Those separated from their families include some 1,400 Afghan children who have arrived in the United States without their parents. They include Afghans who worked directly for US agencies and with the US military, as well as their spouses, children and grandchildren. They include others whose livelihoods — with nongovernmental organizations or the media, for example — were possible only because of the US security presence, and whose continued employment and safety may now be permanently jeopardized.
It’s true that extracting people from Afghanistan is difficult and dangerous work. For those who want to leave, even to be reunited with their immediate family, the task is infinitely more complicated than simply booking a commercial flight out of Kabul. It’s also the case that US officials have continued to work on getting Afghans out, including roughly 350 who have been arriving weekly in this country for the past two months.
That’s not nothing; it’s also not enough.
As The Post reported, the Biden administration has not established any systematic process by which to proactively identify and assist resettled Afghans in the United States who remain separated from their close family members, many or most of whom remain in Afghanistan. No easy-to-access official channel is available through which such information can be transmitted to the State Department, the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security. Why not?
Advocates for the refugees believe the number of severed Afghan families based partly on the United States numbers in the tens of thousands. And while major questions remain about the long-term immigration status of Afghans already in this country — problems Congress could address by granting them a path to citizenship — easing procedures for reuniting those families is a separate matter, and a far more urgent one.