Tracking the Congressional Response to Afghanistan

August 18, 2021 By Sophia Ramcharitar

As the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan continues, USGLC has called for swift action to secure the safety of the thousands of Afghans and their families who have supported our nation’s military and civilian agencies. As General Anthony Zinni (Ret.) and Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), Co-Chairs of USGLC’s National Security Advisory Council, said, “In this difficult situation, the United States must stand by and protect all Afghans who stood with the U.S. It is critical that we be prepared to protect those who served honorably alongside us – with our military and with our nation’s civilian agencies, American NGOs and contractors, and U.S.-based media organizations.”

Members of Congress are working across the aisle to urge the Administration to act now through the expansion of urgent visa programs for Afghan partners, continued local security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, and evacuation of Americans still on the ground. Here’s a quick summary from Capitol Hill:

Senate Letter to Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas led by Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) – 8/16

    • Signed by 44 bipartisan Senators
    • 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.  We also urge you to increase processing capacity within U.S. Citizenship and
    • Immigration Services and to immediately appoint an interagency refugee coordinator.  We support your efforts to evacuate those who are applying for humanitarian parole and those applying for Priority 1 or 2 pathways, including by allocating seats for them on SIV evacuation flights.  Finally, the United States should do everything possible to enable charter flights to safely land at and depart the airport even after U.S. Embassy personnel have been evacuated, and that clear instructions for safely accessing their aircraft are provided to those who are trying to depart and to organizations that have referred people and their dependents.”

Senate Letter to Secretary Blinken led by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) – 8/13

    • Signed by 15 bipartisan Senators
    • “We write today with extreme concern regarding the ongoing civilian situation in Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw. 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.”

House Letter to President Biden led by Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA)– 8/17

    • Signed by 47 bipartisan Members
    • Accompanying Washington Post article
    • “As a country, we need to do everything we can to evacuate those eligible for Special Immigrant Visas and for the Priority-2 program. But we can’t stop there. So many are in danger because of their association with the United States and allies, including the families of our allies, journalists, NGO employees, and so many more. Our offices are working diligently and around the clock to help those fleeing Afghanistan. In doing so, we stand ready to assist the Department of State, Department of Defense, and other relevant agencies as they work to help the many in Afghanistan who have been left behind, including helping our constituents and those reaching out on how to work through this bureaucracy. But our staff cannot adequately do this without a clear understanding of the process and plan currently underway.”

House Letter to President Biden led by Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) – 8/17

    • Signed by 42 bipartisan Members
    • “We write with a critical request: that the United States must do everything possible to securely hold the airport in Kabul until the rescue mission is complete and our citizens, allies, and vulnerable Afghans had an opportunity to leave….In furtherance of this mission, we will need to be clear with the Taliban that they must allow safe passage of Afghans needing evacuation to the airport, and that they will face grave consequences if they threaten our troops or impede evacuation efforts.”

House Letter to President Biden led by Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) – 8/13

    • Signed by 36 bipartisan Members
    • “We write to ask that you act immediately to facilitate the evacuation from Kabul of Afghans whose active support for our efforts in their country and for the advancement of democracy and human rights there make them likely targets of Taliban retribution. With the collapse of Kabul an imminent possibility, we should view this as a Dunkirk moment. The safety of U.S diplomats and military personnel must be our first priority. But we must also evacuate Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas, and all public and private resources must now be mobilized to save not just those eligible for SIVs but as many other vulnerable Afghans as possible.”

We will continue to monitor and keep track of actions from both the Administration and Capitol Hill as the withdrawal from Afghanistan continues.

“USGLC members have worked tirelessly for years to create a safer and more prosperous Afghanistan, especially for women and girls,” said USGLC’s CEO and President Liz Schrayer. “That work and progress is now in jeopardy. Going forward, the U.S. and our allies must continue to stand with the Afghan people to protect the rights of women and girls and ensure access for humanitarian operations…”