Afghanistan Explosion
Afghan security personnel inspect a damaged building in the aftermath of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

As of this writing, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated far faster than even most pessimists expected. The Taliban are already in Kabul. Perhaps it was always a pointless mission, a horror for all the Afghans who have suffered and the coalition soldiers who sacrificed so much.

Analyses are already pouring in dissecting what went wrong, how the American mission failed, and what might or might not have been done. Pentagon officials and policymakers assuring both Afghans and the American people that the mission to safeguard at least Kabul and its environs from the Taliban and its human rights abuses have much to answer for.

But at this moment the most important moral charge for Americans is to provide asylum for the many Afghans who trusted in us hoping for a better and freer life, who assisted the United States and now face likely brutal reprisals from the Taliban regime. President Biden is sending in reinforcement troops to assist in evacuation of personnel, but much more needs to be done.

After withdrawing from the similarly ill-fated and ill-conceived war in Vietnam, the United States took in an estimated 125,000 refugees from the country. Those Vietnamese immigrants and their children have since become another invaluable strand in the tapestry of American diversity.

Now U.S. officials are supposedly “considering the feasibility of evacuating Afghans who provided assistance to US forces but lack a visa to holding locations while their applications are being assessed.”

So far, the United States is only taking 3,500 Afghan refugees while trying to find other countries to settle more.

So far, about 1,200 Afghans have been evacuated to the United States and that number is set to rise to 3,500 in the coming weeks under “Operation Allies Refuge,” with some going to a U.S. military base in Virginia to finalize their paperwork and others directly to U.S. hosts.

Fearful the Taliban’s advances are raising the threat to SIV applicants still awaiting processing, Washington is seeking third countries to host them until their paperwork is done and they can fly to the United States.

“It is deeply troubling that there is no concrete plan in place to evacuate allies who are clearly in harm’s way,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service resettlement organization.

This is simply inadequate to the task. America cannot continue to sustain a military presence in Afghanistan, and it’s too late given events on the ground, anyway. But we owe it to the many Afghans who put their lives on the line and expected and hoped for a better future, to help them escape the Taliban’s wrath. Canada is taking in far more, to the tune of 20,000:

Canada said Friday it will take in up to 20,000 Afghan refugees, including women leaders, government workers and others facing threats from the Taliban, as insurgents advanced across the country seizing major cities.

“The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking and Canada will not stand idly by,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told a news conference.

The refugees will include “particularly vulnerable” Afghans still in the country or who’ve already fled to neighboring states, which in addition to female leaders and government employees also comprises human rights defenders, persecuted minorities and journalists.

America should do at least that and more. It’s the very least we owe to the Afghan people.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.