Now that the last American troops have left Afghanistan, the Biden Administration, Congress, and the American people begin to grapple with both the horror and devastation witnessed over the past three weeks in Afghanistan and the continuing security challenges posed by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Though the American operation over the last several weeks was successful in evacuating over 123,000 individuals, there remain over 100 Americans and thousands of vulnerable Afghans left in Afghanistan. As the country mourns the death of 170 individuals – including 13 U.S. service men and women – killed in the terror attack in Kabul last week, there remains an urgent need to protect the individuals left behind.
Congress has displayed unparalleled bipartisan support in recent weeks for the protection and evacuation of U.S. citizens, as well as the Afghan allies who worked alongside both the U.S. military and American civilian agencies and partners. More than two-thirds of Congress has weighed in with their support, either through letters to President Biden, Secretaries Tony Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas, or through legislation and resolutions. This makes congressional support clear for evacuating our Afghan partners – even now after the August 31st deadline to withdraw American troops has passed.
The full spectrum of Congressional leaders – from Democrats to Republicans to Independents, progressives and conservatives – have lent their signatures to letters expressing the need for every effort to be made to protect and evacuate Afghan allies.
Critical in many of these letters and statements is the distinction that Afghan allies who worked for and alongside U.S. civilian agencies and partners – including U.S.-funded NGOs and media organizations – are also at grave risk of retaliation from the Taliban for their support of the American operation. Congressional leaders have also resolved to continue U.S. humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, aiding those – particularly women – who wish to remain.
Examples of bipartisan letters include:
- House Letter to President Biden led by Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and signed by 36 bipartisan Members
- “By honoring our promises to Afghan partners, we can send the message to U.S. citizens and local partners in other countries – where our servicemembers may one day find themselves engaged in life-or-death situations – that the United States is a reliable partner that stands by its people and partners in their time of need.”
- House Letter to President Biden led by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) and signed by 14 bipartisan Members
- “For nearly twenty years, multiple generations of Americans have served in Afghanistan, as members of our Armed Forces, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multilateral organizations, and in countless other ways…There has never been a more important time for us to stand with our Afghan allies than now.”
- House Letter to President Biden led by Reps. Mike Garcia (R-CA) and Jason Crow (D-CO) and signed by 23 bipartisan Members of the For Country Caucus
- “This is about more than doing the right thing. This is a national security imperative. The eyes of the world are watching whether we will stand by our friends. We must show the world that we will live up to our values and promises.”
- House Letter to Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas led by Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Grace Meng (D-NY) and signed by 73 bipartisan Members
- “We write to express our urgent concern and to share our priorities to help save the lives of our Afghan allies and their families, women and girls, journalists, non-government organization employees, translators, and so many others currently stuck in Afghanistan.”
- House Letter to President Biden led by Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) and signed by 47 bipartisan Members
- “We are gravely concerned for the many people – U.S. citizens, Afghan allies and their families, women, NGO employees, journalists, and so many others – stuck in Afghanistan fearing for their lives and the future of the country. It is this Administration’s moral obligation to leverage all available resources to help as many people as possible to safety in the United States. There is no time to waste.”
- House Letter to President Biden led by Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and signed by 35 bipartisan Members
- “At this moment, Afghans who worked for U.S.-based non-governmental organizations, those associated with U.S. institutions such as the American University, as well as journalists, civil servants, and prominent activists, may qualify for P-2 status, and are in grave danger…Now is the time to fulfill our broader moral obligation to Afghans who bet their lives on the future America promised.”
- Senate Letter to President Biden led by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) and singed by 53 bipartisan Senators
- “The United States led coalition forces in Afghanistan for nearly twenty years following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States…At every step of the way, our mission was supported by Afghans who fought alongside us for a better future for their country. They risked their safety and the well-being of their families to work with the United States. With the departure of U.S. forces and Taliban rule in place, the safety and security of our Afghan allies who put their lives on the line to help our service members and diplomats must be a top priority.”
- Senate Letter to Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas led by Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and signed by 42 bipartisan Senators
- “As the situation in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorates and the Taliban has taken control of Kabul…We strongly urge you to create a humanitarian parole category specifically for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, judges, parliamentarians, journalists, and members of the Female Tactical Platoon of the Afghan Special Security Forces and to streamline the paperwork process to facilitate referrals to allow for fast, humane, and efficient relocation to the United States.”
- Senate Letter to Secretary Blinken led by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and signed by 15 bipartisan Senators
- “As the Taliban rapidly seizes control of cities across the country, we strongly urge the Department of State to also swiftly expand its overly narrow interpretation of eligibility for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to include not only those staff members who have worked under U.S. government contracts, but also those employed under and associated with grants or cooperative agreements.”
Key Congressional leaders have already received classified briefings from the Biden Administration on the situation in Afghanistan, and committee leaders including House Foreign Affairs Chairman Greg Meeks (D-NY) have called on Secretaries Tony Blinken and Lloyd Austin to testify before the committee. As Congress returns from recess mid-September, gaining answers on the number and status of those allies left in Afghanistan and ramping up legislative action to ensure their safe evacuation and continue humanitarian assistance to those left behind will be a high priority for many.