Image Courtesy of the New York Post
Following the fall of the Afghan government, the situation in Afghanistan quickly deteriorated, much more rapidly than the Biden administration anticipated. With such a lapse of foresight, came a surge in U.S. employees and citizens, allied citizens, and Afghan citizens trying to flee the country. Such a refugee crisis not only made the U.S. departure more complicated but introduced additional questions for those who are now displaced.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed a deal with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, in which he agreed to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, with the date for the final withdrawal being May 1, 2021. Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, would stick to the set deadline. However, after reports of the Taliban attacking Afghan government officials in April, he extended the deadline to August 31. Two weeks before the August 31 deadline, members of the Taliban entered the capital city of Kabul with almost the entire country under their occupation
The U.S. military had to immediately take action as thousands of Afghans started to flee the country including Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Gahni. Thousands of Afghans fled to Kabul Airport with the hope of securing a fast exit from the country. In order to evacuate, Afghans had to go through a Taliban checkpoint followed by a U.S. military checkpoint. They would then be able to board a U.S. Air Force cargo plane which would take them to Qatar.
Today, according to National Public Radio, 124,000 Afghans are staying at the Al Udeid Air Force Base near Doha, Qatar. The future of Afghan refugees, and how long they will stay in Qatar, is now in question. The Biden Administration has been working with Qatar on an agreement to temporarily house these thousands of Afghan refugees. Possible plans include sending any Afghans with visas to some of the other surrounding countries. Last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he will visit Qatar this week to thank diplomats for their hard work in the last few weeks.
Afghan refugees temporarily staying in Qatar begs the question: where do they go from there, considering that they left Afghanistan in the first place? The Taliban is controlling all the land borders, and most European countries are only taking a certain number of refugees. Qatar is working with Turkey to reopen the Kabul Airport.
For now, the future of Afghan refugees remains under review as U.S. officials monitor to see when it will be safe for Afghans to return home. The plans for dealing with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will be a challenge for government officials around the world. As the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is just days away, President Biden is looking to end the nation’s longest war. The challenge will not be easy, but there will be some way to end it.