All U.S. Government Personnel Engaged in the Evacuation of Afghanistan
Winner of the 2021 Walter and Leonore Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy.
Nearly fifty years after the evacuations and resettlements that followed America’s defeat in Vietnam, the United States Government again faced a massive evacuation under dangerous conditions. As was the case with Vietnam, there are many questions about who did what, when and how. With time and a cooling of passions, many of these questions will be answered. However, they need not concern us today.
Today, we focus on the extraordinary bravery, commitment, and dedication to the service of our country in Afghanistan of American diplomats and military personnel during the tumultuous days of evacuation last summer. From the August 15-16 move of Embassy staff to Hamid Karzai International Airport to the last US military flights out just before midnight on August 30, our women and men, and representatives from dozens of other countries and organizations, affected the air evacuation from Afghanistan of US nationals and staff, their allied and other foreign counterparts, Afghans at risk, and family members – 124,000 people in all, the largest such evacuation in history. Consular officers and problem-solvers from our Embassy, joined by many hundreds 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 engaged staff.
Dangerous, chaotic circumstances and competing demands weighed on all those involved at the Kabul airport. US troops and diplomats joined together to mourn the loss of 13 American Marines, soldier and sailor, as well as over 200 Afghans, in the suicide attack carried out by ISIS on August 26.
Embassy personnel and many military colleagues deployed to help carry out this massive evacuation, fielded thousands of pleas for help, and sought to accomplish as much as possible for as many as possible safely and securely. Along with counterparts in Doha, waystations in Europe and elsewhere, and camps and processing centers in the United States, they gave and are giving care and help to thousands of people in critical need.
As was the case with Vietnam, the first evacuation was not the end. Thousands were left behind then and years were necessary before the United States fully lived up to its responsibilities to its allies and supporters. We can hope that the end of this process will be equally honorable.
While the larger political process continues, work goes on. Our purpose today is to honor the men and women of our diplomatic and civil services and their military colleagues who participated in the evacuation in all its parts. Once again, they answered the call of duty. Their professionalism, dedication, courage, and creativity in the face of a very dangerous and rapidly evolving situation will serve as an inspiration to future generations of those who voluntarily serve America abroad.”
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. All those who were part of this mission can take pride in their own service and in how they answered the call of duty.
It is to honor them that we ask Ambassador Ross Wilson to receive, on behalf of all those who served, military and civilian, diplomat and Civil Service, the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Walter and Leonore Annenberg Excellence in Diplomacy Award.