watch Safe Passage for Scientists: Exiting Afghanistan

Written by: The Exchange

When the United States announced its intention to withdraw from Afghanistan, scientists and engineers with even the most tenuous connection to the United States recognized the looming jeopardy they and their families faced. The Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of the country left many of them scrambling to secure evacuation options. Amid the chaos that followed, institutions such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine worked feverishly to facilitate safe passage for those who simply could not find a way out. Vaughan Turekian, Executive Director of the National Academies’ Policy and Global Affairs division, spent many sleepless nights as the long-distance interlocutor working on behalf of these stranded scientists. Join him and writer/director/producer David Arata for a look back at this singular moment in time that continues to resonate throughout the science community.


Vaughan Turekian is the executive director of the National Academies’ Policy and Global Affairs division. Prior to joining the Academies, he served as the fifth science and technology adviser to the U.S. secretary of state. In this capacity, he advised the secretary of state and other senior State Department officials on emerging science, technology, and health matters affecting the foreign policy of the United States. He is currently the co-chair of the 10 member group of advisers to the U.N. secretary general on the role of science, technology, and innovation to advance the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He has affiliations with Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and the University College London.

David Arata made his screenwriting debut in 1999 with Fox 2000’s Brokedown Palace, followed by the film Spy Game in 2001. He was widely recognized for his role in Children of Men, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2007 and won the USC Scripter Award, Austin Film Critics Award, and Online Film Critics Award. David’s work encompasses a variety of genres, including thriller, drama, and fantasy. His screenplays have attracted the participation of Hollywood stars, including Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Clive Owen, and Julianne Moore. His most recent work, The Angel, debuted as a Netflix original film in 2018.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.