An Afghan doctor and humanitarian whose life’s work was upended by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is warning that his homeland could become a hive of human rights abuses following President Biden’s much-criticized withdrawal of U.S. forces.
“It was not a wise decision to leave a nation in a very, very hard situation,” Dr. Wais Aria told Fox News Friday. “People deserve to have their civil rights. The women deserve to have their rights.”
Aria and his family were beaten by the Taliban on multiple attempts to reach Kabul’s airport before the final U.S. plane left. After spending days waiting outside the perimeter, they finally got in and are now safely in Virginia, where they’ve lived since 2017.
But the Taliban swept across the country, conquering most of it as the U.S.-backed Afghan government and military collapsed in real time, leaving millions of Afghans at the mercy of the radical Islamist group that once allowed al Qaeda terrorists to plot 9/11.
Biden’s botched withdrawal has prompted a storm of criticism from all sides – and some experts have asked why it went down without better planning or the involvement of United Nations peacekeepers to maintain order. The Taliban took control of Kabul and set up checkpoints outside the airport where U.S. forces were racing to evacuate tens of thousands of people ahead of Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline.
Then a suicide bomber killed 13 American service members and dozens of Afghan civilians at a gate to the facility.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin Saturday that he believes the crisis in Afghanistan could result in a civil war and that terror groups like al Qaeda could once again take root – 20 years after the U.S. invaded in response to the 9/11 attacks.
“In my belief, it is not [the] ending of war in Afghanistan for the United States,” Aria said. “The United States should be alert for this.”
He’s very concerned about the safety of his relatives who remain in Afghanistan, and for the country’s people as a whole under Taliban rule.
And he hinted that propping up the Afghan government – whose president fled the country just before the Taliban seized Kabul – was the wrong move.
In June 2020, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction had warned that “systemic” corruption in the now-defunct Afghan government undermined its own public support. And activists in Kabul had accused the government of squandering billions in international aid money that could have helped stabilize the country.
In the interview with Griffin, Gen. Milley reiterated those concerns, saying it was a lack of faith in the government from Afghan citizens that helped the Taliban seize control.
“One of the fundamental issues I think clearly is the corruption in the government…the government itself not having the legitimacy in the eyes of the people,” Milley said. “You saw what happened at the end. The senior government elites, they all just literally bugged out.”
The government is gone. The Taliban have taken control, and Aria is worried about everyday Afghans, who he referred to as Afghan nation, left behind. He issued a plea for the U.S. and other countries to monitor the Taliban’s treatment of civilians going forward.
“Afghan nation deserves to have their basic human rights,” he said. “Please, please be beside Afghan nation.”
Aria is a medical doctor and human rights activist who founded a large nonprofit that treated trauma survivors, primarily children, and women who suffered through terror, war, or domestic abuse. He also worked to rehabilitate child soldiers.
He hopes to continue such work here in the U.S. to help Afghan refugees find their place in American society.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.