As I gather with my family this Thanksgiving, I must put aside the darkness that hangs over my home country of Afghanistan and celebrate the accomplishments that the country has been able to achieve largely in part from the sacrifices of American service members who were deployed to Afghanistan over the past twenty years.
Alongside Afghans, these service members not only built schools, hospitals, and roads, but also helped Afghanistan reclaim its rich culture by developing news outlets and television shows. This includes the Afghan version of Family Feud, Ro Dar Ro, hosted by the comedian Nabi Roshan and Afghan rap songs, which fuse a uniquely Black American style of poetry with Rumi’s mother tongue. Over the past 20 years, Afghans worked towards a promising future to end the country’s vicious cycle of violence, making the fall of Kabul even more tragic.
No one could have predicted how quickly things would unravel on August 15th. And while America played a critical role in helping to rebuild and recover from the scars of the Taliban’s first dark reign, the American government now bears the responsibility of a reckless withdrawal from Afghanistan, which put tens of thousands of American allies in the crossfire of the Taliban’s retribution. Now, the government has left it to veterans to finish the job of evacuating these allies and those most vulnerable.
With heart in hand, I’m filled with profound gratitude for the veterans who are committed to finishing the job of evacuating our allies that the US government won’t. Over a hundred days after the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan, I’ve been exposed to the work of scores of veterans who are tirelessly committed to doing right by Afghans, through my classmate and Army veteran, Junaid Lughmani. Through Junaid, I was drawn into the Special Operations Association of America and witnessed this group of veterans band together with just their phones and laptops to rescue Afghans scrambling for their lives.
As I’ve witnessed veterans lead the charge, it’s also been remarkable to watch professors, faculty, and my fellow classmates on UC Berkeley’s campus touch the lives of Afghans by raising thousands of dollars for humanitarian aid, supporting evacuations, and welcoming refugees with open arms. The plight of Afghans is at the forefront of the consciousness of our campus, and together, we are a representation of American values.
As evacuations continue, winter looms, and the UN estimates that 23 million Afghans are in crisis or experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity. As I’ve seen on my campus, a compassionate community can make a meaningful difference. The burden of evacuating allies should not be solely left to veterans. Though our government all but abandoned Afghanistan to a cruel fate, I am in awe of the Americans who continue to press lawmakers for action and legislation to right a terrible wrong and to keep our promise to leave no one behind.
Afghans are resilient people. We will return and rebuild and when we do, we know we can rely on our American friends, led by our veterans, to stand by our side, just as we have experienced in this recent tragic episode in Afghanistan’s history.
To veterans, this Thanksgiving, as an Afghan American, I simply offer my profound thanks for your continued sacrifices to America and especially so to my beloved Afghanistan.