26.10.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

The US Afghan Adjustment Act is still stuck in the pipeline. Or – the White House’s policy of double standards

The US Afghan Adjustment Act is still stuck in the pipeline

It is an accepted fact that when a major world power gets involved in a foreign conflict, it will always find local sympathizers – we could call them helpers or even collaborators – who, whether motivated by ideology or forced to do so by circumstances – support external intervention in the fate of their country. However, there is no guarantee that the world power that embarks on a war will be successful, either militarily or politically. Throughout history, there have been examples in which a military intervention has ended ignominiously and the foreign forces, for one reason or another, have been forced to leave the territory they occupied.

However, every time a major power decides to retreat, in order to save face and plan interventions in other locations, it needs to deal with the consequences of its failure and take care of those supporters or helpers who risked their own safety and that of their families in order to support the foreign invaders, often for many months or years.

The USA, while asserting its hegemony in the system of international relations, and acting as a world policeman, has frequently, in the course of its short history as a major global power, faced similar problems in the various regions of the world, where, without asking the opinion of local peoples, it has tried to assert the American values of absolute democracy and impose its own rules.

Democratic Representative Jeff Jackson, a Major in the Army National Guard who served until the Fall of 2021 in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province) has argued that after every major military conflict involving US troops, America has passed a law of adjustment in order to fulfill its moral and political obligations to those individuals who risked their lives to serve America.

Such Adjustment Acts have been passed following a number of conflicts involving the United States, including the Vietnam War, the crisis in Cuba, and the interventions in Nicaragua and Iraq, to provide moral, political and legal assistance to those of its supporters who were able to evacuate to the United States, or planned to resettle and take up permanent residence there, and also (upon completion of the necessary security screening process) to provide them with a favorable, or simplified, regime for acquiring official status in the country.

But when it comes to Afghanistan, where the situation is comparable, the US authorities (in particular Congress and the Department of Homeland Security) have failed to act in accordance with the declarations made by the US government. For more than two years now, more than 82,000 Afghan refugees who were forced to flee their homeland following the sudden withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan have been unable to obtain permission to reside in the United States, despite the fact that most of them had served it faithfully throughout the 20-year occupation.

Luke Broadwater, an expert in the workings of Congress, has described, in an article for The New York Times, the numerous unreasonable obstacles that have been placed in the way of the bill on granting evacuees from Afghanistan the right to residence permits (not to mention citizenship).

As readers may remember, the hasty withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after a 20-year presence ended on August 31, 2021 with the transfer of power in Kabul not to the US-backed puppet administration, but to the radical Islamist Taliban (an international organization that is banned in the Russian Federation). In the course of the hurried departure, 13 US servicemen were killed and many Afghans were injured or killed in the rush to leave their country for fear of violent reprisals from the Taliban, who had simply abolished many basic human rights. Thousands of people who had supported and enabled the US presence in Afghanistan were unable to evacuate along with the US troops and were left behind, easy targets for the new regime.

According to the military expert Matthew Adams, a group of about 40 US lawmakers have proposed a bill on the provision of support to Afghan refugees and allies, some of whom are already in the US, and others of whom are desperate to leave their country. The bill is supported by a number of Republican and Democratic senators (including Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Jeff Jackson, Chris Coons, etc.). Its other supporters include veterans of the Afghan war, and leaders of non-governmental organizations (Shawn VanDiver, a former naval officer and the founder of AfganEvac, representatives of the Lutheran Church etc.).

The first version of the Afghan Adjustment Act was first proposed in the US Senate and House of Representatives in August 2022, a year after the withdrawal of US troops, but it has yet to be passed. Many supporters of this bill in the Senate and civil activists rightly argue that America has a responsibility to protect the lives of its supporters or helpers and their families, and an obligation to show them the same respect that they showed the Americans. Nevertheless, the situation has not improved.

Every time, on spurious grounds, the US lawmakers refuse to adopt the legislation. A wide range of reasons have been given. These include:

– President Joe Biden was handed an unworkable refugee and displaced persons outreach program by his predecessors;

– the Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a power struggle that is sidelining the Afghan issue, because the Republicans consider that Biden’s hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and the transfer of power and a significant amount of weaponry to the Taliban (an international organization that is banned in the Russian Federation) was a mistake;

– the US Department of Homeland Security still suspects that the security checks in relation to some of the Afghan refugees are insufficient;

– the US intelligence services reasonably suspect that among the Afghan migrants are supporters of the Taliban (an international organization that is banned in the Russian Federation) and representatives of criminal drug trafficking rings, who may be a source of new threats to US security, including terrorism, drug addiction and extremism.

On the face of it, these reasons, along with others not specifically stated, may reflect genuine concerns for the internal security of the United States, although it should be noted that the US has little regard for the security concerns of other countries. Nevertheless, the prolonged stalling of this bill does rather tend to suggest double standards, and perhaps even xenophobia and racism against the Afghans.

Take, for example, the case of Arafat Sati, who worked as a high-ranking official in the Afghan Foreign Ministry in Kabul before the Taliban (an international organization that is banned in the Russian Federation) took over, and who now considers that his family’s future lies in the United States, for whom he worked for many years. Despite his loyalty to the United States, he is still not eligible for the fast tracking of his security vetting. The Department of Homeland Security is demanding more rigorous screening for Afghans seeking US residency and citizenship.

Of the 82,000 Afghan refugees in the United States, only 6,500 have been able to pass the intelligence services’ screening process and obtain status in the United States. The other 75,500 remain in legal limbo, and they could be deported at any moment, even though they have nowhere else to go. And that is at a time when tens of thousands of Ukrainians are entering the US on humanitarian grounds. Despite the insistence of US President Joe Biden, Congress did not include any provision for the Afghans’ in the emergency spending bill passed in May to help fund the war in Ukraine.

The above figures suggest that the United States’ attitude to refugees and internally displaced persons depends on their origin, and this indicates not only a policy of double standards, but also xenophobia and racism – in the present case, a bias against Muslims from Afghanistan, while welcoming white Christians from Ukraine. Senator Chris Coons has spoken out on this issue: “The amount of support for Ukrainian refugees is, quite rightly, very high. But Afghans, even those who served alongside us, are finding it hard to get the same level of support. And that’s a great shame.”

If the US authorities display such prejudice against those Afghans who they helped evacuate, what can we say about those who have been unable to leave Afghanistan? Of the 48,900 asylum applications submitted to the US authorities, immigration officials approved only 369. This suggests that the US intelligence services cynically make use of their potential agents and helpers, but have no interest in any form of mutual cooperation with them. Thus, the United States finds a host of excuses for avoiding its ongoing accountability and abandons its former supporters and allies to their fate.

The experience of Afghanistan, following 20 years of occupation, shows that weak countries should not pin too much hope on support from the US. Those Ukrainians who are working with the US intelligence services would be wise to bear Afghanistan’s example in mind, as would those representatives of other post-Soviet republics, who, blinded by their emotions and their own mistakes, put their hopes in fanciful dreams, and rely on help from their friends across the ocean.

Some may recall the tragic fate of Mohammad Najibullah (“Dr. Najib”), the President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, who was let down by his ally, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR. “The last leader of the USSR” is a fitting description, because it was Mikhail Gorbachev’s contradictory policies and weaknesses that triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union, the subsequent fall of the which resulted in the fall of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In 1996, Dr. Najib was kidnapped from the UN compound in Kabul – not, by the way, from the Russian Embassy – and killed by the same Taliban who are now in power.

The US is selective in its search for “true allies,” and its main partner, apart from Anglo-Saxon Britain, remains Israel, which is the main beneficiary of Washington’s Middle East strategy and is funded by wealthy members of the Jewish diaspora.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Related articles: