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Editorial: Afghans at risk of Taliban wrath must be evacuated, too

  • August 26, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 12:15 p.m.
  • English Press

Afghan citizens fearing for their lives and human rights must not be left behind in the rush to evacuate from Afghanistan. We urge the international community to make all-out efforts to rescue all of them to ensure they do not face the wrath of the Taliban.


Many Afghans worry about what could happen to them following the stunning takeover of the country. Reports have emerged of people killed in shootings around Kabul international airport, which is still thronged by crowds desperate to seek safety in another country.


Against this backdrop, the leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies held an emergency online conference Aug. 24 to discuss the growing crisis in Afghanistan.


In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the G-7 leaders pledged that “our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have partnered with us and assisted our efforts over the past 20 years, and to ensure continuing safe passage out of Afghanistan.”


After the former Taliban regime collapsed in the U.S.-led war against Afghanistan, numerous Afghans worked with the United States and its allies to help rebuild the nation. The United States and its allies have a moral obligation to secure the safety of those Afghans, who could face persecution because of their prior cooperation with the Western powers.


But honoring this commitment presents a formidable challenge because the Afghans who are vulnerable are not limited to local embassy staff members and those who assisted the foreign forces operating in Afghanistan.


Also at risk are citizens who worked to promote democratic and family values like the rights of women and freedom of the press. Some Afghans are in danger simply because they had studied abroad, in Japan, for example.


The credibility of the G-7’s commitment to freedom and democracy will be seriously damaged unless the leading powers can help evacuate as many threatened Afghans as possible.


To ensure effective implementation of evacuation efforts, U.S. President Joe Biden should not be bound by his Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.


This deadline was set by the Biden administration for the political purpose of designating a symbolic date to mark the end of the war in Afghanistan for the domestic audience.


Britain and some other European countries are calling for an extension of the deadline, saying it will be impossible to finish evacuation operations by the end of August.


Biden, however, is sticking to the deadline, claiming the United States is “on pace to finish” the airlift of Americans, endangered Afghans and others seeking to escape the violent upheaval that has befallen the country. We hope Biden will take a more flexible stance toward the issue, if he really places importance on U.S. alliances.


At the same time, the U.S. government urgently needs to hold meaningful talks with the Taliban, which now controls the capital. It is vital for Washington to extract a commitment from them to refrain from violence and any action that hampers evacuation efforts.


The G-7 statement also said any future Afghan government must demonstrate its commitment to preventing terrorism, safeguarding the human rights of all Afghans and upholding the rule of law. The legitimacy of any future government depends on its actions concerning these principles, the document added.


For the G-7 to place effective international pressure on the Taliban to uphold these principles, it also needs to seek and obtain cooperation from China, Russia, Turkey and Pakistan, among other countries. This is the time to make full use of all international organizations and frameworks relevant for the mission, including the Group of 20 and the United Nations.


It is also urgent to ensure that Afghans who manage to escape are able to settle as swiftly as possible. 


Japan must not forget that it also took part in the U.S.-led war against terrorism, which obliges it to play a role in all these efforts.


Tokyo should ask itself what kind of role it can perform as a country that supported the reconstruction of Afghanistan and tackled related humanitarian challenges and then come up with a sincere answer.


–The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 26

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