Introduction by Ross Wilson
American diplomats and soldiers showed extraordinary bravery, commitment, and dedication in service to the United States and the Afghan people during the tumultuous days in Afghanistan this summer—from the Aug. 15-16 move of embassy staff to Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) as the government and capital fell to the last U.S. military flights out just before midnight on Aug. 30. Men and women from the Department of State, as well as representatives from dozens of other countries and organizations, affected the air evacuations of American nationals and staff, their allied and other foreign counterparts, Afghans at risk, and family members from Afghanistan. In all, more than 124,000 people were airlifted to safety, marking this effort as one of the largest such humanitarian evacuations in history.
Consular officers and problem solvers from Embassy Kabul, joined by hundreds of volunteers from posts elsewhere and Washington, processed thousands of people for travel; found creative ways to locate and help American citizens in need; and organized and supported bus convoys with other embassies, non-governmental organizations, and locally employed staff. Dangerous, chaotic circumstances and competing demands weighed on all those involved at HKIA. U.S. troops and diplomats joined together to mourn the loss of 13 American service members, as well as more than 200 Afghans, in the suicide attack carried out by ISIS, Aug. 26.
Embassy personnel and many military colleagues deployed to help carry out this massive evacuation. They fielded thousands of pleas for help, and sought to accomplish as much as possible, for as many as possible, in a safe and secure manner. Along with counterparts in Doha, waystations in Europe and numerous other countries around the globe, and processing centers in the United States, the team gave (and continues to give) care and help to thousands of people in critical need. While work continues and much remains undone, this heroic effort is making an enormous and positive impact on the lives of those evacuated—and on the lives of those who made it possible. American diplomats and service members went above and beyond the call of duty to carry out U.S. policy in support of that effort.
Each of us has stories to tell and trials and tribulations to remember. Most, like me, would have been nowhere else at this dramatic time of great need for our country and for its purposes in the world. U.S. diplomats and soldiers did what was asked of them to carry out American policy in support of that effort. Our military colleagues and Foreign and Civil Service personnel alike are all volunteers: they signed up for service to our country. In Afghanistan, in the summer of 2021, they got that in spades.
Ross Wilson served as chargé d’affaires at Embassy Kabul until the recent suspension of operations there.
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