Governments are notoriously reluctant to admit mistakes. But sometimes the facts are so clear that no acknowledgment is necessary. Our withdrawal from Afghanistan is just such a circumstance. And just when we thought things couldn’t get uglier or worse, they did.
We don’t know who is to blame for the botched effort, which has been off-balance from the start. Beginning with the rushed evacuation efforts that left Americans at risk, abandoned significant military equipment and hardware and stacks of cash, and continuing with the stranding of tens of thousands of pro-American Afghans who were promised protection, we have been mystified by the apparent poor planning and execution of the withdrawal effort.
Then last week, the whole situation took a horrific turn for the worse when a suicide bomber at Kabul’s airport killed more than 170 people, including 13 U.S. service members — the first U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan since February 2020, and the deadliest incident for American troops there in a decade.
We trust that appropriate inquiries will be pursued to determine what went wrong, and why what was billed as a withdrawal has played out as a retreat, causing so much damage to America’s image and credibility.
Thus far, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan. Many of those and future evacuees will find sanctuary in this country. It is heartening to see the warm and welcoming efforts of so many Americans for these refugees, thousands of whom supported the American presence in Afghanistan.
Interfaith groups are taking the lead to help Afghans obtain visas and find homes and jobs. Lead organizations assisting in this effort include Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Church World Service, Global Relief and Catholic Charities, as well as secular agencies like the International Rescue Committee. The national Jewish group HIAS is working with Airbnb to provide housing opportunities. And many smaller nonprofits have joined the effort, as well. For example, the Lakewood, N.J., branch of Olam Chesed, a nonprofit that distributes trailer loads of surplus merchandise donated by major retailers to needy families, delivered boxes of medications, toiletries, candy, toys and footwear for refugee families who arrived at the military base at Ft. Dix, N..J.
During the month of August, approximately 500 Afghan refugees arrived for resettlement in the D.C. area, with the potential for 500 more in September. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has set up a fund to help resettle refugees. The Federation’s United Jewish Endowment Fund has granted more than $350,000 to Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, the federally chartered resettlement organization for the Washington region, to support Afghan refugee resettlement. Synagogues, other faith groups and nonprofits throughout the region are also mobilizing to help refugee families.
We applaud the interfaith and interagency cooperation and coordination for this life-affirming outreach effort to assist in the resettlement of Afghan refugees. While there will be time for review and evaluation of what went wrong in the evacuation process, the actual resettlement needs of the refugees who join us are immediate and worthy of our assistance.