We Must Help the Afghan Interpreters, Plain and Simple

I think Joe Biden’s decision to fully withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a mistake. It’s mistaken on strategic and moral grounds. I hope I’m wrong. But when even administration officials and experts who favor the decision concede that our pullout—of a very small contingent of troops—could result in a Taliban takeover, it seems a safe bet that it will happen.

That decision has been made and there’s no point arguing about it anymore. But there’s still one thing the United States can do—and morally must do: Get the people who signed up to work and fight with us out of there.

Over the last 20 years, thousands of Afghans worked with U.S. and NATO forces as interpreters, cultural advisers, etc. They chose to do so knowing that they put their lives and the lives of their families at risk. The Taliban knows who most of them are and will find out about the rest soon enough. Scores have been assassinated over the years. The Taliban has lists of people it plans to kill. Interpreters are at the top of the list, but so are countless others who worked with Western organizations and governments to stand up a (sadly corrupt) democratic government, as well as schools and other civil society projects.

Even if you’re not compelled by the moral argument, telegraphing to the world that it’s not worth working with Americans is a strategic blunder of monumental proportions. And an utterly foreseeable one.

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