“Unrealistic Expectations”: A State Department OIG Report on Problems with Afghan Resettlement
Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021 not only surrendered that country to the Taliban but also resulted in a rapid resettlement of almost 90,000 Afghan nationals in the United States, under the president’s ever-expanding use of parole authority. Many of those admitted are not allies of the U.S. in any genuine sense, but merely managed to board a U.S.-bound aircraft. A recent report by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) shines a light on numerous problems with the Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) program, including unrealistically elevated expectations and cultural prejudices on the part of many Afghan parolees.
Nine resettlement agencies (RAs) reported that the APA Program “involved some of the most significant challenges that they had ever faced,” due in large part to the large numbers of Afghans being flown in at a fast pace. The report emphasizes that “nearly every RA described the rapid pace as unsustainable, which led to employee burnout and attrition.”
The OIG also reveals that many Afghans resettled within the U.S. arrived with “unrealistic expectations,” a phrase that is repeated multiple times throughout the report. A large number of parolees demanded to be settled in places such as California or Northern Virginia, where there are already large Afghan immigrant communities (or where some had relatives), and were disappointed when available housing quickly ran out. In fact, “many parolees had unrealistic expectations regarding housing and consequently rejected the housing provided to them [at U.S. taxpayer expense] as being insufficient to meet their needs or of an inferior quality.” Quite a few were similarly unhappy with the jobs they managed to find in the U.S., such as Uber drivers or warehouse workers.
The report also admits that “some RA staff reported experiencing racism and sexism from Afghan clients unaccustomed to the norms of U.S. society. Another RA reported that some parolees refused to work with female case managers or case managers from minority groups.” The OIG attributes this to insufficient pre-arrival cultural orientation, but such an assessment seems rather naïve. Can a few more cultural orientation classes exhorting the newcomers to be more tolerant and self-sufficient really overcome deeply-ingrained prejudices which are incompatible with American values and expectations? After all, according to Pew Research, 99 percent of Afghans believe that Sharia law should be the law of the land in their native country.
The OIG report does not paint a full picture of all the problems associated with mass Afghan resettlement. Issues such as crimes committed by some parolees or costly damages to U.S. bases have already been addressed elsewhere. It is nevertheless a sobering corrective to media- and Biden-administration-inspired rosy images of the Afghan evacuation and resettlement operation. It is also a reminder that hopes for smooth assimilation and everlasting gratitude for salvation from the clutches of the Taliban may be unrealistic expectations.