The Truman View

The voice of Truman members, writing in their personal capacity.

February 15, 2022
Six Months After the Fall of Kabul

Six Months After the Fall of Kabul

Written by
Camille Mackler, Senior Visiting Fellow of Immigration, Truman Center for National Policy

Six months after the fall of Kabul, it’s still surreal to read about a piece of history we just lived through. In the last few weeks, revelations have surfaced concerning the disarray and disagreements within the Biden administration over how to handle evacuations of vulnerable Afghans during the months-long troop withdrawal. They are a jarring reminder of a crisis that could have been avoided, and how hard advocates fought to avoid the dramatic and devastating result.  

For those of us who began advocacy efforts in support of vulnerable Afghans in the early months of the Biden Administration, the revelations carry with them frustrations and heartache. When Truman Center published the Special Immigrant Visa report in April 2021, I remember the hope that we still felt. As an immigration attorney and advocate, the Trump administration’s hardline policies on immigration had capped over a decade’s worth of increasingly hostile and counterproductive actions from both sides of the aisle. During Trump’s tenure, the American public - angered by Muslim bans and images of children ripped from their parents’ arms at our borders - seemed increasingly inclined to push for change. At the outset of Biden's inauguration, friends and colleagues were scooped up for high profile jobs in the Administration, and Congress seemed re-energized and ready to tackle reform. Surely, I thought, the momentum would carry with it life-saving changes to a process designed to protect those who stood side-by-side with American troops, diplomats and aid workers. Instead, political failures and infighting kept advocates in a constant loop of what George Packer accurately described as “meetings with mid-level White House officials who listened and took notes, saying little.”

As the dust settles on the immediate crisis, we face a new road ahead - there is so much work that still needs to be done. Our immigration system - with its overreliance on protective pathways as a means of legitimate migration - is shockingly lacking in ways to actually provide protection in the midst of a crisis. Legislation is desperately needed to provide long-term status for the tens of thousands of Afghans who were able to make it to the US during the Non Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO), as the events of last August have come to be known, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Afghans living in the United States prior to their country’s collapse who cannot safely return home. Advocates like me will continue pushing for the Afghan Adjustment Act to be introduced in Congress and will redouble efforts alongside resettlement agencies and community groups to welcome those who arrived here in the last six months.

The civilian-led evacuation that began last August is not over. The U.S. government didn’t help us start the evacuation, and it's not up to them to declare when it ends. There are many Afghans who need our support - Afghans who are living in shelters and hiding from the Taliban as winter has settled in and the banking system remains frozen, denying them access to cash and thus food. Day-by-day, through the coalitions and partnerships we formed last summer, we chip away at these challenges, celebrating each person we are able to help, while knowing that thousands still remain.

Truman National Security Project
Camille Mackler, Senior Visiting Fellow of Immigration, Truman Center for National Policy
Senior Visiting Fellow, The Truman Center for National Policy

Camille Mackler is the Senior Visiting Fellow on Immigration at the Truman Center for National Policy, where she works on the intersection of immigration policy and national security. She is also an immigration attorney and the executive director of Immigrant ARC, an organization that works on increasing access to justice for immigrant New Yorkers, and a frequent speaker on immigration law and policy.