Afghanistan’s human rights crisis continues — we cannot forget those trapped there
In the late summer of 2021, Americans watched in stunned disbelief as the Taliban swiftly, efficiently and murderously claimed the country of Afghanistan, hoisting their flags high above cities across the nation. Sadly, many of us who are military veterans weren’t in shock at how — or the speed with which — the fall of Kabul happened. Instead, we exchanged glances, text messages and emails about the way the Biden administration seemingly sat back, passively washing its hands of Afghanistan while atrocities plague the country.
It was a complicated situation, to be sure, but the answer was undeniably simple: Save our own. We must save our allies. As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, what I was watching take place halfway across the world was deeply personal and heartbreakingly familiar. Too many of my friends and fellow servicemen were sacrificed on the soil of Afghanistan: Some in whole, too many in part, for us to merely share tears and laments.
Instead, we linked arms as veterans, caregivers, advocates and nonprofit organizations across the country and, as our nation’s leadership reclined, we grabbed our boots, raised funds, chartered flights and went into a new type of battle to save our own citizens, Afghan allies who fought alongside us, special immigrant visa (SIV) holders, children, women with their futures now in question, and thousands more.
The response by Save Our Allies to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was swift and visceral, and for those of us whose lives have been defined by two decades of a war on terror, it was cathartic and necessary.
Recently, the New Yorker published a piece highlighting the human rights nightmares taking place under Taliban rule. In it, people shared stories of babies being denied proper health care; a country being swallowed by poverty; an economy in ruin; families being hunted for their belief in America’s promise of freedom and protection. For those of us who served or were touched by military service, these reports weren’t surprising. For every story written, there are hundreds more just below the surface underscoring the Taliban’s regime of horror.
The grievous truths published by the New Yorker and other media outlets are the very reason that Save Our Allies was founded in the hours after the Taliban began their march across Afghanistan. They are the momentum that propelled us to carry 12,000 Americans and allies to safety within 100 days of the country’s collapse. The faces and lives of those who need help are what drive us to continue to not only rescue them, but also aid their resettlement across America. Our supporters and volunteers recognize the still-urgent needs of this community.
Our work isn’t finished. In many ways it’s just beginning. As long as Americans and SIV holders are desperate to leave Afghanistan, we will desperately fight to secure them safe passage and safe haven. All too often in a 24-hour news cycle, time tempers and softens the once-fraught headlines that people eagerly click. But time doesn’t temper or soften the harsh brutalities of tyrannical rule.
We have a responsibility to supplement the anemic global response to the Taliban takeover. We have a mission to save those who are left behind in Afghanistan. We have a duty to secure the freedom once promised, and now denied, to those who are left clinging to shreds of hope.
For those of us who still believe in everything for which the American promise stands, for those U.S. friends who have been left behind, for our children who one day will look back on this moment, for the weak and oppressed who believe they are forgotten, and for my fellow brothers and sisters in arms who have given so much, this is a moral imperative from which we will not back down.
We must continue saving our allies.
Matt Nelson is a board member for Save Our Allies. A former major in the Marine Corps, he served as a ground combat intelligence officer. He is chief operating officer for RMS, a global security company. He has been involved with the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies since early August 2021, before the fall of Kabul.