Open Letter from CIC Fellow Rina Amiri: Can We Act Urgently to Prevent Kabul Becoming the Biden Administration's Srebrenica Moment?

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am getting reports from Afghans on the ground that 5,000 Taliban fighters are in Logar waiting for the order to march into Kabul. There are another few thousand in Surobi, less than 50 miles from Kabul. I cannot verify this information but it is clear that at this stage Kabul will more likely fall in days or at best a few weeks. There are many women activists, journalists, and human rights defenders at high risk. They are high on Taliban kill lists.

There is an assumption that the Taliban are going to be humane because we have been talking to the 15 negotiators in Doha. But the Taliban on the ground have been targeting and killing women, journalists, judges, and civil servants in provinces where security forces and people have peacefully surrendered, and there are daily reports of atrocities taking place. We must judge the Taliban by their actions rather than our own illusions of their rehabilitation.

There are hundreds if not thousands of people in Kabul who have been openly criticizing and advocating against the Taliban for years. They are at risk of being massacred.

We need immediate measures, including air strikes to hold the Taliban outside of Kabul while evacuations continue and leverage all our political capital to reign in the Taliban. And we urgently and seriously need to develop concrete plans to grant those most at risk, such as women and human rights defenders, safe havens in the US Embassy and organize charter flights or use US Air Force capacities to begin evacuating them. Canada has radically modified its protocol to airlift over 100 women to Canada. We should be able to take similar emergency measures.

These Afghan women and men have championed the US, moderate Islam, democracy, women’s rights, and human rights for 20 years. If they are killed under this administration’s watch, it will be a historical burden that the administration will have to bear.

I am appealing to you as an American and former government official who believes and cares deeply in America’s moral standing in the world; as a volunteer and champion of the Biden campaign and administration, who believed in President Biden’s commitment to democracy and women’s rights in his foreign policy; and as an woman of Afghan heritage who has seen Afghan women repeatedly instrumentalized for political purposes but who never thought they would be cast aside so recklessly.

I don't wish to over-dramatize matters, but the signs point to a Srebrenica or Rwanda moment.

Will we do the right thing this time?

I am appealing to you to act on your conscience and use your position and voice to hold the administration accountable for preventing atrocities in Afghanistan and to make the case to the public about what is at risk.

America is at its best when it acts from a place of principle and moral courage. As an Afghan once said to me, "Without principles, America is just another country."

Best,

Rina Amiri
Senior Fellow
New York University Center on International Cooperation

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Aug 13, 2021
Rina Amiri
Afghanistan
Afghanistan, Crises