Earlier this week, the State Department reported that more than 23,000 Afghan refugees deemed to be “at risk” have arrived in the United States. By all accounts, that represents more than one-sixth of all the evacuees airlifted out of Kabul in the past two months, a State Department representative said.
According to The Associated Press (AP), the vast majority of the Afghan refugees are being housed at seven military bases across the country. About 20,000 more evacuees are currently at seven staging bases across the military’s command region that includes the Middle East, with an additional 23,000 at seven staging bases in Europe.
As one published reported noted, “The new numbers offer a preview of the massive humanitarian and immigration effort that will be required in the coming days and weeks, as the international community tries to find permanent refuge for families who faced imminent danger at the hands of Afghanistan’s new Taliban government.”
It is also a counterargument to critics of President Joe Biden, who say the White House hasn’t done enough to help vulnerable Afghans.
Closer to home, Vermont and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) say they have jointly submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to serve up to 100 Afghans in the Green Mountain State.
“The goal is to accommodate some of the many Afghans who are being targeted because of their support of the U.S. military and government agencies, as well as media and nongovernmental organizations, following the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan,” according to a joint news release.
According to the AP, Republican Gov. Phil Scott said his administration has reached out to the White House to reiterate an earlier request for Vermont to take in more refugees.
“We’re ready, willing and able to help those who are coming from war-torn countries,” Scott said Tuesday during his weekly coronavirus briefing.
Scott told reporters it was “the right decision” to end the nearly 20-year war that he said didn’t appear to be winnable, but he said he disagreed with how President Joe Biden did it.
“I think we have a moral obligation to make sure that we protect those who helped protect us for those 20 years who are living in that country. And we probably should have stayed a little bit longer to make sure they got out first,” Scott said.
“It’s horrific what we’re seeing as those who are desperate to get out of the country and maybe for good reason,” he said.
On several occasions, Biden has called the anguish of trapped Afghan civilians “gut-wrenching” and conceded the Taliban had achieved a much faster takeover of the country than his administration had expected. But the president expressed no second thoughts about his decision to stick by the U.S. commitment, formulated during the Trump administration, to end America’s longest war, no matter what.
According to the joint release, USCRI Vermont is working closely with the State Refugee Office at the Vermont Agency of Human Services to plan support services for Afghans potentially arriving in Vermont.
“We look forward to the opportunity to welcome Afghans to Vermont who have already done so much to support our servicemembers overseas,” said Tracy Dolan, the newly appointed director of the State Refugee Office. “We are proud to see the outpouring of support from Vermonters who want to help. While we recognize the challenges of relocation, we know that Vermont has a great deal to offer to Afghans and their families who seek a peaceful and fulfilling future.”
Details are being worked out.
Several Vermont communities have indicated they would welcome the refugees.
“I am gratified that Vermont is volunteering to welcome and resettle one hundred Afghans who have fled their country in recent weeks. Many of these Afghans supported the U.S. military and our government over the past two decades, risking their lives and the safety of their families. Vermonters recognize that it is our moral obligation to provide them refuge from retaliation and persecution by the Taliban and other extremist groups in Afghanistan,” U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy wrote in a statement this week.
“Vermont has a long history of warmly welcoming refugees who have become an integral part of communities across our state,” Leahy wrote. “They have made Vermont stronger. It is fitting that Vermont is stepping up yet again to offer safe haven to vulnerable Afghans in their hour of need.”
It is an obligation — one some Vermonters oppose. We must do the right thing and welcome these war-ravaged folks as our neighbors.
This editorial first appeared in the Rutland Herald on Sept. 4.