FOR two years now, since the Afghan Taliban took Kabul, thousands of Afghans in Pakistan who had worked for Western states are awaiting resettlement in third countries. The matter has been compounded by the government’s decision to send illegal Afghan residents in Pakistan back to their country. For those who had aided Western states in a military capacity, as well as individuals who worked for Western NGOs, the return would be risky — even though Kabul’s rulers claim they will grant amnesty to their compatriots who worked with foreign forces. For obvious reasons, most Afghans are not willing to believe the Taliban. Also reluctant to return are journalists, academics, musicians and others who feel they will not be safe in their motherland. The combination of Western lethargy and the crackdown has left many Afghans in this country apprehensive about their future, as most feel they cannot move about freely in Pakistan.
The sense of abandonment many Afghans feel is not new; countless South Vietnamese, as well as Iraqis, have been through the same experience, as Western states left them in the lurch when military misadventures backfired. For example, when Saigon ‘fell’ in 1975 — most Vietnamese remember it as liberation — the Americans rushed to evacuate citizens as well as South Vietnamese allies as fast as possible. While Washington did manage to help resettle around 140,000 loyalist Vietnamese, a far higher number became ‘boat people’ as they fled the new rulers of their homeland. Similarly, many Iraqis who had aided the American occupation felt that their erstwhile allies had abandoned them, and that their lives were in grave danger. The US, UK, Germany and other Western states that participated in the Afghan invasion have a duty to swiftly resettle all Afghans who helped them. The bureaucratic hitches holding up the process must be resolved so that these people can start rebuilding their lives.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2023