A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has called on President Joe Biden to “immediately evacuate” thousands of Washington’s Afghan “friends and allies” from Afghanistan amid the pullout of American troops from the South Asian country.
In a 4 June letter to Biden obtained by Politico, the lawmakers expressed concern that POTUS had not yet ordered the Department of Defence to help the White House implement a plan “to protect our Afghan partners”, in the wake of the first message sent to the US president on 21 April.
According to the authors of the 4 June letter, the State Department’s current blueprint to approve special immigrant visas (SIVs) allowing more than 18,000 of Afghans to enter the US is being fulfilled too slowly.
AFP 2021 / Romeo Gacad
In this photo taken on August 5, 2011, US troops from the Charlie Company, 2-87 Infantry, 3d Brigade Combat Team under Afghanistan’s International Security Assistance Force patrols Kandalay village following Taliban attacks on a joint US and Afghan National Army checkpoint protecting the western area of Kandalay village.
The lawmakers argued that the current SIV process may come to a standstill because “tt takes an average of 800+ days, and we plan to withdraw [US troops] in less than 100 days”.
They predicted the process “will not be rectified in time to help the 18,000+ applicants who need visas before our withdrawal”.
“If we fail to protect our allies in Afghanistan, it will have a lasting impact on our future partnerships and global reputation, which will then be a great detriment to our troops and the future of our national security”, the letter underscored.
The call to Biden comes after State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that they had identified “process improvements” and directed additional resources to the SIV programme, including increasing staffing in Washington and Kabul to more efficiently process SIV applications.
“We understand and we recognise that we have a special commitment and a special responsibility to the many Afghans who, over the years, have at great risk to themselves and even to their families — have assisted the United States in our efforts in Afghanistan. We are always seeking ways to improve the SIV process while ensuring the integrity of the programme and safeguarding our national security and affording opportunities to these Afghans”, Price pointed out.
UK to Fast-Track Relocation of Its Afghan Partners
He spoke after the UK announced plans to rapidly resettle hundreds of Afghans who worked for the UK military and government, mostly as interpreters, amid concerns for their safety as international troops leave Afghanistan.
“As we withdraw our armed forces, it is only right we accelerate the relocation of those who may be at risk of reprisals. Nobody’s life should be put at risk because they supported the UK government to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. We are doing everything to make sure we recognise their services and bring them to safety. It is the right thing to do”, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace underlined.
On 1 May, the United States, along with NATO partners, began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war that resulted in the deaths of over 2,300 US servicemen and hundreds of thousands of Afghan casualties.
President Joe Biden vowed to complete the pullout by the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States that sparked the so-called War on Terror by then-POTUS George W. Bush.