I doubt that many would argue that the US has ever implemented an effective, helpful, or productive policy with respect to Afghanistan. Indeed, it seems like any choice between actions in Afghanistan is a lose-lose scenario. And while policy analysis is certainly critical, I need to remind myself to consider the human cost of decisions as well. It’s easy to focus on numbers, on comparatively abstract outcomes – and miss out on what the people who are living these statistics experience. With the removal of US troops from Afghanistan and the consequent take-over of the Taliban inducing political and economic chaos, Afghanistan is experiencing a tremendous humanitarian crisis. A severe drought has prompted many rural farmers to give up attempting to cultivate their land and foreign aid, that supported the Western-backed government, has evaporated, causing food prices to skyrocket and leaving many without wages.
It’s understandable that many western nations, and most notably the US, do not want to legitimize the Taliban’s government. But the famine, compounded with severe sanctions, are leaving millions in severe danger of death from famine and malnourishment – with the potential of killing more civilians this winter than died throughout the entire 20 years of war in Afghanistan. An article by the New York Times chronicles the dire situations of many women and children in an affected province of Afghanistan – the images and stories are tragic and moving. There are many factors to consider, but I don’t believe that blaming a foreign government for the poverty-stricken situation of its citizens is an appropriate response. The US should act swiftly, while there’s still time, to avert the humanitarian catastrophe ongoing in Afghanistan. For no other reason than because it’s the right thing to do.