As millions of Americans attempt to enjoy these last days of summer, the media brings us devastating news of impending tragedy in Afghanistan.

For years the United States has based its continuing presence in that beleaguered country not only on the threat the Taliban presented as a staging ground for terrorism, but on the dire threat the movement represents to the human rights of Afghan women and girls. The Taliban promises to sweep away all the progress achieved by and for these women in the past two decades, progress fought for at great risk by courageous Afghan women leaders with the backing and very public support of past American administrations, both Democrat and Republican.

Even more tragic will be the fate of those courageous Afghan women who led this campaign for womens’ rights. At present, it is apparent that they face almost certain torture and death at the hands of the Taliban. Having encouraged and supported their work for two decades, it is now our moral duty and, in our self-interest, to rescue these targeted activists.

To future generations, these women will be the leaders critical to any democratic way forward that one might hope for their country in a post-Taliban world. For the present generation, the United States will have preserved the voice of Afghan women who can speak for and to their enslaved sisters left behind to endure Taliban rule.

And then, of course, there is the moral imperative involved. Only through a fully committed effort to save these brave women can the U.S. in some small measure hope to redeem its moral reputation, preserve its credibility, and salvage some hope for those who still look to us as a beacon for democracy.

We must push our leaders to slash the red tape that chokes the process, and do what Ambassador Melanne Verveer and Tanya Henderson proposed in their August 14 Washington Post article, to rescue as many of these leaders as possible.

And we must do it now!

Anita Botti

West Tisbury