Amidst the dramatic backdrop of the withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan lies a massive humanitarian challenge: refugees, both internally displaced and outside of their birth country, need assistance. The U.S. has an enduring and generational commitment to the Afghan people, Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy & Human Rights at the U.S. Department of State, said. Through billions of dollars in assistance, support for international partners and non-governmental organizations, the U.S. pledges support to refugees and neighboring companies hosting longstanding displaced populations.
Drawing on historical analogies, John Negroponte, Vice Chairman of McLarty Associates, former Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Ambassador, looked at the fall of Vietnam and the ensuing wave of refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. Zeya highlighted the recent evacuations as the largest humanitarian airlift in U.S. history, and the need to ensure the same rights and benefits will be available to Afghans as to the generations of refugees who preceded them.
Directing the conversation to what Americans can do, Ambassador Negroponte asked how we can facilitate the transition. Zeya called on the spirit of Americans to welcome and support the Afghan people, highlighting the bipartisan effort from Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton, and President Biden’s strengthening of refugee resettlement programs. The next year will need to be a year of action among democracies in order to counter creeping authoritarianism, fight corruption, recenter human rights at home and abroad, and center democratic values and free and open societies.
Our approach—open societies rooted in the rule of law, rooted in accountability to our citizens, and rooted in free and fair elections, respect for human rights, and protecting the vulnerable—this approach is the one to prevail in the historic contest between democracy and autocracy all over the world.
And of course winter’s coming in Afghanistan, which will present humanitarian issues in their own right.