In April of 2021, and following two decades of war in Afghanistan, the Biden presidential
administration announced the decision to withdraw all U.S. military forces from the country by
August 31st of that year (White House, 2021), effectively ending the longest military campaign
in U.S. history. The announcement of the withdrawals incited widespread panic, and as the
forces retreated, the Taliban and other non-state actors (Hollingsworth, 2021) occupied this vacuum,
rapidly encircling the major cities, taking siege of the infrastructure, and assuming control of the
country. This abrupt regime change left many Afghans in dire circumstances and racing to
identify the best path through which to seek safety.
A great number of Afghans had prior connections to the American government due to having
worked with the US military, as well as programs sponsored by or associated with the U.S.
government and a variety of collaborating NATO entities. Families connected to these activities
therefore feared retribution for their involvement with foreign actors, which the Taliban regarded
as treasonous activity. As the evacuations intensified following the Taliban take-over, and with
the evacuation deadline fast approaching, approximately 75,000+ individuals were airlifted to the
United States, including thousands of children.
Supporting forced migrants from Afghanistan will require ongoing cross-sectoral collaboration and advocacy, as many Afghans continue to face barriers to accessing services due to unfamiliarity with U.S. systems, language barriers, trauma histories, discrimination, as well as U.S.-based service providers’ lack of familiarity with the population. Practitioners can help to bridge this information gap by staying current with emerging resources on how to best assist this cohort of newly-arrived individuals, as well as by helping to create welcoming spaces across the various settings in which they may come to interact with them.