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Article: The Afghan Crisis: Helping Effectively

The Afghan Crisis: Helping Effectively

The Afghan Crisis: Helping Effectively

 I’m waiting on several contributions for a project of mine. Some of the friends I am waiting on are currently preoccupied with getting Americans and their friends out of harm's way in Afghanistan. It was a bad time to set a deadline within the last two weeks, but here we are, and you don’t know what you don’t know.  But it makes you think that maybe things do happen for a reason. Were we born at a certain point in history to participate in these events? Did our lives take a turn so that we could pour time into tasks in service of others?

My good friend, who shares my passion for the written word, recently retired from the Marine Corps. He quickly found himself in a position to serve again in what might be the greatest concerted effort of the Global War on Terror. He and other veterans have worked around the clock coordinating rescue and evacuation efforts for American citizens and Afghan allies. Some stories have had beautiful, cinematically happy endings, while others have been tragic and horrific. At the end of our conversation, I told him if there was anything we could do to help to please let me know, and he told me, “write.” So here I am.

Our phone call ended, and I asked myself the question, “what can I do?” After I answered the question for myself, I decided that I could be even more helpful if I shared it with as many others as possible, so here we are. Some of you may have avoided asking yourself, and may not have even thought about it. Some of you may argue with the answer and say it’s not your problem. That’s the thing about human rights violations. It’s never “our problem” until it is, and so we should think twice about how often we avert our eyes. We don’t care about someone else’s human rights being violated until we are the ones on our knees being pelted with softball-sized rocks for walking to the store without a male escort.

I am a veteran of the Iraq war. I was part of that drawdown. Veterans of that conflict were also upset with how easily the Islamic State toppled Iraqi Security Forces, but what we see in Afghanistan is not the same. Even the ignored intelligence reports did not predict that the country would fall this quickly to the Taliban. This is a global crisis, and as global citizens, there is always something we can do. There have been comparisons to the fall of Saigon and veterans taking hasty withdrawals from their battlefields as personal failures. Putting our heads in our hands or shaking our hands at the sky aren’t things I came up with when I asked myself how I could contribute to the current crisis. We went because our country asked us to, and now we are leaving because our country is telling us to. This is not a defeat for any of us because we did all that our country asked. But in these final hours, will you rise to the occasion? Saying our brothers and sisters died in vain is untrue and unhelpful. Harness your anger and empathy to tackle the tasks at hand. If you claim war to be “all that you know,” this is it. This time, it is not firefights and close air support. It is not patrolling to contact or direct action raids. It is picking up the pieces for those who don’t get to go on R&R or block leave. It is establishing welcoming parties and gathering supplies.

This is not a partisan issue. There will be another time to decide what political entities are more at fault. We can all point fingers later, but for now, there is work to be done.  

The temporary “Pray for Afghanistan” frame around your Facebook profile picture, while well-intentioned, doesn’t do anything. Neither does criticizing our elected officials in comment threads of news networks. Instead, here is a cheat sheet of ways to engage, and you can decide how you want to enter this fight. 


  • Write your elected officials and tell them that more time is needed to evacuate and recover American citizens and allies. This isn’t news, but it needs to continue to be heard by the powers that be. Fill their inboxes and give them no peace. Write about the people of Afghanistan. Our society is driven by statistics, but we are moved by stories. 

  • Donate

    • There are many Non-Governmental Organizations that have operated for decades, and there have been fundraising campaigns popping up left and right. Do your research and know where your money is going.

      • Ark Salus is a non-profit organization committed to evacuating families of Afghan special operations forces, currently being hunted by the Taliban. With their families out of harm’s way, these special operators can fight to take back their country.

      • No One Left Behind is a non-profit organization focused on resettlement and advocacy for wartime allies of the US from our time in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

  • Local Efforts

    • The evacuation crisis is temporary, but the refugee resettlement efforts will go on for quite some time. Find out if there are plans in your area to assist in welcoming and resettling Afghan refugees. Investigate what volunteer services or tangible donations they might need.

The bottom line here is that we are on borrowed time. The Taliban has denied an extension after August 31, which means we will run out of time. This is not a possibility; it is a certainty. If there are Afghan allies fighting to their last breath, the aid we provide should go to the final hour. We are on their time, and we weren’t even paying attention when the hourglass got flipped.

Written By Keith Walter Dow

August 24, 2021

Keith Walter Dow is a poet from New England where he is studying to receive his Master of Social Work. His newest book, Karmic Purgatory hits shelves this September and his other work has been published in Fact & Memory and In Love &...War: The Anthology of Poet Warriors. He is the co-founder of Dead Reckoning Collective, a publishing company exclusively working with military veterans to share their stories in all written genres. He is a devoted father and a partner to the essayist, Jessica Danger.



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