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Afghan Withdrawal Fallout: Will the US Raise the Refugee Cap?

We Should Not Close the Doors

Magazine, The Immigrant Experience

As of 30 August 2021, the United States Armed Forces have fully withdrawn from Afghanistan, marking the end of the 2001–2021 Afghan War. The withdrawal was an outcome of the Doha Agreement that took place between the Taliban and the Trump administration in February 2020. Surprisingly, the Afghan government or other stakeholders such as Pakistan were not made a party to this agreement.

The agreement Taliban to prevent al-Qaeda from operating in territories under Taliban’s rule, and hold talks with the Afghan government for bringing sustained peace in the terrorized Afghanistan.

Chaos at Afghan Airports 

However, when the withdrawal of all foreign forces began, the Taliban started attacking the areas controlled by the Afghan government and occupied most of them. Resultantly, the common Afghan people panicked and started their struggle for leaving the country which is now being fully controlled by the Taliban.

Their desperation for leaving Afghanistan is evident from a tragic incident that happened at Kabul’s international airport on August 14. Terrifying videos of the incident show Afghans clinging to the US military jets while they were taking off. When one of these jets left the airport, Afghans clinging to it fell from mid-air.

On August 16, the body of a desperate Afghan was found in the landing gear of an American C-17 transport aircraft hours after it hastily took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport.

This disturbing news along with the footages of chaos erupted at international airports in Kabul and other areas, where Afghans were rushing to board on any aircraft headed to the US, had become the center of discussions across the world with international media questioning the US planning for these Afghans, who had helped America in its war against Taliban, and were now left behind to deal with the consequences.

Biden’s stance 

American President Joe Biden, however, assured in a Facebook video in mid-August that America will welcome Afghan refugees with open arms. Regarding the security concerns associated with the Afghan refugees, Biden said that, “Planes taking off from Kabul are not flying directly to the United States. They’re landing at U.S. military bases and transit centers around the world. At these sites where they are landing, we are conducting thorough … security screening for everyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check.”

He added, “Once screened and cleared, we will welcome these Afghans who helped us in the war effort over the last 20 years to their new home in the United States of America. Because that is who we are, that is what America is,” Biden continued.

Will the refugee cap be raised?

These words by Biden and his compassion and empathy for those in need imply that the US will raise its refugee cap to induct Afghans. The cap, which was raised by Biden in July to 62,000 cannot apparently cover the huge number of Afghan refugees. The US has already received 23,876 ‘at risk’ Afghans after the withdrawal, while the US military alone is preparing to house and process a total of 50,000 Afghan evacuees. So, it is inevitable for the US to accommodate such a huge number of refugees without raising the cap.

Another development that supports our analysis about the refugee cap is that Republicans have also stopped opposing the Afghan evacuation and arrival to the US. Currently, the majority of the US states have agreed to accept refugees fleeing Afghanistan, with only two states ― South Dakota and Wyoming ― so far refusing to do so.

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