Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

The U.S. must not abandon its allies in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley

By Junaid Lughmani

Junaid in Afghanistan

Junaid in Afghanistan

Right now, there is a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions unfolding in the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan. It is not just monumental in physical scope; it is monumental in ideological significance. Our allies, comrades in arms, friends and confidants—men, women, and children alike—are being surrounded by ruthless Taliban fighters. America has a commitment to these allies, one that it must honor. We cannot—we must not—abandon our allies in this time of need. To do so is to betray the ideological foundations of America itself.

For decades, nations around the world looked to America for resolute leadership in the face of uncertainty. They looked to America as the embodiment of virtuous idealism. But perhaps most importantly,America paved the way for a new human existence manifest from that very idealism. This is not to say that America is flawless. This is to say that American ideals compel us to honor certain commitments owing to the very essence of who we ourselves claim to be as Americans. America stands by her allies, supports her brothers and sisters, and above all, answers the call of humanitarian obligations.

In the aftermath of World War II, the ensuing power struggle for Western Europe gave rise to one of history’s greatest humanitarian achievements—the Berlin Airlift. As the Soviets marched westward, the Iron Curtain descended across Germany, enveloping Berlin and cutting of all connection between West Berlin and the rest of West Germany. In response, Allied Forces organized an airlift to support the needs of an entire city, bringing in thousands of tons of supplies daily.

It was a demonstration of humanitarian compassion, logistical prowess, and global leadership that exemplified America and her values. Born from the seeds of her own industriousness, the Berlin Airlift defined America every bit as much as the war that preceded it because it demonstrated her resolve to honor commitments to her allies and to humanity at large.

American allies are suffocating in the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan—as we speak. In the aftermath of an over-hasty, and ill-planned withdraw, America has all but abandoned allies that stood with us for decades. Stood with us against terrorism. Stood with us against oppression. Stood with us fighting for better opportunities in a land covered by an iron curtain of misery, hatred, and extreme violence. These same allies now find themselves in a desperate struggle not only for their own survival, but for the survival of the future of an Afghanistan that we all professed to desire; and an Afghanistan for which many of us fought.

Perhaps most critical, however, is the fact that America’s abandonment of her allies is not a want of ability—it is a want of conviction. America has the capacity to address this crisis—the capacity to rescue our partners in Panjshir. All that is lacking is an awareness of the direness of the situation in the Panjshir Valley and the resolve to address it. When our allies came under duress in Berlin, there was no stone that America would not move to come to their aid. That conviction and resolve is what defines us as Americans. This is more than an entreatment to our political body; this is more than a call to action for our citizens; this is a reminder of the obligations inherent in the very essence of who we are as Americans.

The remnants of our Afghan allies—National Police Forces, Special Forces, and regular military units now huddle in the Panjshir Valley under the banner of the National Resistance Forces (NRF). Dedicated to preserving the modest gains made over the past two decades, they resolutely oppose the Taliban, al Qaeda, and extremism writ large. Without American support, it is only a matter of time before the NRF exhaust their supplies and succumb to Taliban aggression. If that happens, virtually all of Afghanistan will reside under Taliban control. America—and her people—will face the reality of having ignominiously abandoned her allies on the field of battle in a time of grave need.

Recently, I met a former Afghan commando who was able to escape Afghanistan with his life and his family. He had fought alongside U.S. troops since 2002; fighting for a better future for his daughters so that they might chase their own dreams. To my surprise, he remained truly optimistic about the future of Afghanistan, even now. He reminded me that, “2021 is not 1996…the Taliban are facing a different Afghanistan than the one they conquered in the 90s.” Words like “hope”, “independence”, and “human-rights” did not exist in the Afghan lexicon of the 90s—but they exist now.

It is now up to us—you, me, America—to fulfill our promise to our Afghan allies. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the flickering light of hope that still remains in Panjshir is not extinguished by brutality. We must support our allies with humanitarian aid. As an American, use your freedom, your right to speak, to be heard, to demand action from your representatives. It is time for us to call for the Panjshir Airlift. Let us once again move any stone that remains in our way to ensure that our allies know their faith in America has not been misplaced.