Remembering our allies
There are still thousands of people trapped in Afghanistan, people who risked their lives for our country over the last 20 years. Families are being hunted by known terrorists who now wield unchecked government-sanctioned power there. Although this is no longer covered as “above-the-fold news,” for many it remains in the forefront of their day-to-day lives. We receive daily text messages, emails and phone calls from people throughout the U.S. and overseas asking what is going to happen next.
When I met my friend and former interpreter this past summer in Texas, we knew we’d be facing an uphill battle. It took years to get him stateside and to successfully navigate the special immigration visa program. We knew trying to extract his family of seven out of Afghanistan would be especially difficult. When we witnessed the Taliban and Haqanni takeover of Afghanistan, the sense of urgency and commitment was fortified. Thankfully, in working with federal officials and bipartisan Congressional offices, we’ve been fortunate to work with a committed group of veterans who’ve established safe houses, helped secure proper identification and pushed a largely private, clandestine extraction operation. These veteran groups such as Operation Recovery, Allied Airlift 21, and more, have performed miraculous work to save and reunite hundreds of families and continue to work to save more.
Lately, commitment from the Biden administration to help those trapped in Afghanistan appears to be all but suspended. It seems uncertainty and indecisiveness have subdued the resolve required to fulfill our obligation to our long-time allies. Are flights going out? Why has the State Department’s overseas processing seemingly halted? How many girls will miss out on the opportunity to attain an education, and how many children will die of starvation this winter? Circular dialogue from elected officials and administrative personnel raises increasing concerns.
The establishment of the New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program will help augment the incredible work the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is carrying out within the U.S. Locally, the Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus (RISSE), Siena College and Russell Sage College have done extraordinary work to help many, including Afghan refugees. And after years of helping those seeking asylum and making the Capital District their new home, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy and I have formed a partnership to continue advocating for those who remain trapped in Afghanistan.
At times, however, our efforts to shed light on those who are facing torture and persecution seem stunted by other headlines and news items. The outpouring of help and resources to assist refugees who’ve made it to the U.S. is a testament to the compassion of every American; however, we cannot forget those allies who’ve yet to realize the promise of America and live under a regime set on their destruction. We will not forget them, and we will not stop fighting for them.
Jake Ashby is a Republican member of the New York State Assembly from the 107th district, and an Army Reserve veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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