Help Afghanistan
Commentary, Politics

Help Afghanistan

Alexander Radomsky, Contributor

Alexander Radomsky (MBA/MPP ’22) reports a curated list of ways in which you can help with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan.

The United States military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the associated humanitarian crisis represent a historical moment for the United States and the 60 countries that have supported the Coalition since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Since August 15th,37 million Afghans have been riveted by the sudden and widely dreaded return of the Taliban and their fundamentalist brand of Islam. As this article was going to press, we were shocked by the suicide bombing at the gates of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, which claimed the lives of at least 13 U.S. Service Members and dozens of Afghan civilians and reminded us all how dangerous and complex the conflict is. 

Despite the grim outlook for Afghanistan, the recent evacuation effort represents a laudable, dangerous undertaking to safeguard U.S. citizens still in the country and exfiltrate Afghans who have aided in the mission through the years. Yet the chaos of the operation highlights the unfilled need for support to those in the middle of it. While we have some HBS students who are directly connected to the unfolding events, especially from veteran, international, and non-profit backgrounds, we know there are many members of the HBS community who want to help despite lacking a direct affiliation. This article is asking for such support and offering direction to those willing to give it.  

There is significant need for help in this process. Consider that many of the people being evacuated are American citizens with either familial ties or longstanding employment in the country, leaving behind important places and people to an uncertain future. Many are new entrants who have just passed incredibly long, bureaucratic processes to receive their visas, like working as a combat interpreter for 2 years and passing a 1-7+ year application cycle. Regardless of their status, evacuees have typically spent days in the 90+ degree Afghan sun fighting through packed, thronging crowds while waving their passports or other documentation to catch the attention of the gate guards at the Kabul airport.  Non-citizens who make it to the U.S. have fled their ancestral homelands with nothing but what they could carry and their families, who typically do not speak English.  Many of them have seen or experience grotesque violence prior to arriving.  

For American Service Members, the situation is also very difficult. Soldiers and Marines were deployed with little warning to Afghanistan to man the gates of the airport for weeks, putting their own lives at risk while eagerly searching for the isolated U.S. citizens and approved entrants whom they are sworn to protect. When these same Service Members have to enforce the necessary order of priority, they often face gut-wrenching scenes of pleading civilians desperate to leave. They all watch their leaders navigate a surreal handover of power to insurgents who lived in the shadows as Afghanistan’s and America’s enemies for the last 20 years. Theirs are the last boots on the ground, marking a bitter end to America’s longest war. 

All these people are going through very trying times, and they deserve the support and comfort that members of the HBS community can offer them.  It is unclear at this time whether previous ways to support will still be available (e.g., crowdfunding charter flights). So, if you are looking for ways to help, here are some ideas:

Send comfort items and letters to the people undergoing and directing the evacuation efforts (including via Amazon)

To Send Items to the Evacuees

Chaplain at Al Udeid, Qatar:

Travis Ferguson, Chaplain

379 AEW/HC Unit 61201

APO, AE 09309-1201

Appropriate Items (noted by the Chaplain)

  • Letters of support
  • Travel size toothbrushes
  • Travel size toothpaste
  • Child-size snacks (no meat or beef jerky allowed)
  • Small toys for children (e.g. teddy bears)

To Send items to US Service Members

C-17 Commander at Al Udeid, Qatar:

816 EAS
UNIT 61236
APO, AE 09309-1236

(Note: The address is to the aircraft commander, but items will be distributed to all members, including in Kabul)

Appropriate items:

  • Letter of gratitude
  • Caffeine (Red Bull, Monster, Instant Coffee)
  • Snacks (beef jerky is allowed, nuts, etc.)
  • Anything you would consider a small gift

Help someone who is struggling to get an Afghan through the visa process, esp. SIV (US Citizens) 

Contact your Representative in Congress on behalf of someone who is sponsoring an applicant and ask for support expediting the process.

Help Relocate Afghan Refugees and Special Entrants (US Residents)

When the ongoing evacuation is completed, there may be more than 100,000 people relocated to the United States since August 1.  If you or anyone in your community is interested in helping to integrate them into American society, please contact one of the organizations below to find a local office: 

  • Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS)
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
  • World Relief Corporation (WR)
  • Refugee Council USA (RC-USA)

 


Alexander Radomsky (MBA/MPP ’22) is from Baltimore, MD. He was a 10-year Army officer before joining the Harvard community, and he deployed three times to the Middle East. He spends his free time reading, playing sports, and relaxing with his wife and newborn son.

September 16, 2021