Does the U.S. Have an Obligation to Protect Afghani Nationals?

A blog post by Tatjana Calimpong-Burke, Junior Associate.

The Fourth Geneva Convention relates to protecting civilian persons during the time of war. Under Article 27, the “parties to the conflict may take such measures of control and security regarding protected persons as may be necessary as a result of the war.”[1]

The Afghanistan government collapsed to Taliban forces in early August 2021.[2]

The collapse resulted from the U.S. withdrawal from the country after nearly 20 years of occupation. There is no explicitly stated obligation the U.S. has to vulnerable people in Afghanistan. These groups include people who aided the U.S. military, women, girls, and those who defied Taliban rule. However, there may be implied obligation regarding the spirit of the treaty. As an occupying power, the U.S. has a moral obligation to prevent certain death of these people.

Over the past several years, the U.S. has significantly reduced its footprint in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, their activity in Afghanistan catalyzed immense social change within the country. American troops brought a new wave of humanitarian aid, diplomats, and American contractors. The stimulus of the American people in Afghanistan brought a sweeping change throughout the country through economic and social modifications to everyday life, which impacted the lives of Afghans across the country. Many Afghans aided Americans throughout the war. There were no programs specifically designed to aid wartime allies such as interpreters and contractors prior to the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. The purpose of the U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) was designed to give such individuals more accessible entry to the U.S. in exchange for working on the front lines during the war.[3] This program is solely targeted at allowing access for those who served for a minimum of two years for the U.S. military or similar contractors with American government affiliations.[4] Unfortunately, this process can be long and onerous. Additionally, it fails to include other vulnerable groups at risk of death.

The reinstatement of Taliban rule leaves women and other progressive groups within a country where there is no future of education or work outside the home. The withdrawal contributed to economic collapse and left many families without work opportunities or a means of feeding their families; Taliban rule has only enforced the crippling economic structure.

[1] Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T. 3516, 75 U.N.T.S. 287.

[2] Council on Foreign Relations, (last visited Dec. 4, 2021).

[3] IRAP Database of U.S. Government Contracts Provides Vital Tool For SIV Applicants, IRAP,

[4] Id.

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