It is urgent to help Afghan partners

On June 4, less than two months after President Joe Biden announced the timeline for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Representatives Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Jason Crow of Colorado organized a letter to the White House, which was co-signed by nineteen of their colleagues. . Moulton and Crow, both Democrats and veterans, wrote: “We appreciate the complexity of ending the war in Afghanistan, but we are increasingly concerned that you have not yet instructed the Ministry of Defense to be mobilized as part of a concrete and workable whole government plan to protect our Afghan partners. ” Their warning came predictably last weekend when the Afghan government fell to the Taliban. As militants stormed through Kabul, desperate Afghans rushed to the airport in hopes of an exit. The Biden administration says it is working to ensure safe placement for those who helped the U.S. effort, but thousands of them remain in the country at risk of Taliban reprisals.

I recently spoke by telephone with Crow, who served three missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2020, Crow was the manager of the first Trump lawsuit. Our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, is below.

What is your perception of how many people who worked for the United States have left or are about to leave Afghanistan?

The number is in the tens of thousands. What I do know is that about two thousand – and this includes family members – were evacuated in the last three weeks in SIV [Special Immigrant Visa] pool. But we had twenty-one thousand Afghans who have applied or said they will apply for the SIV program. And that does not include the tens of thousands of others who worked for non-governmental organizations, foundations, civil society and the field of education. So that number is determined in the tens of thousands, and it does not even include their family members.

What should the SIV program achieve?

The Special Immigrant Visa program is specifically for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government, often as translators, interpreters, security contractors, office administrators, and others who helped us in our mission – helping us get the job done. In my personal life, as a former Army Ranger who served two combat trips in Afghanistan, I can say that I might not be here today if it had not been for some of the Afghans who stood shoulder to shoulder facing me , went on combat missions with me, warned me of risks. We have a very deep moral obligation and responsibility to people who protected us – to protect them now.

What is your sense of how committed the United States is to resettling all these people?

Well, we are pushing very hard as members of Congress, and I have been pushing a lot since April, right after the President announced that he intended to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan. We immediately formed the Honoring Our Promises working group on a bipartisan basis, and we passed both of my bills, both the Hope Act and the Allies Act, which nearly doubled the number of SIVs allowed for Afghanistan and greatly streamlined that program. So we have worked very hard because many of us veterans understand the obligations we have to these people. We now urge the administration to keep the airport as long as we possibly can, send the necessary resources and troops, clear a road to the airport, get US citizens out first and then get tens of thousands of Afghans and their families who have stood with us for the last twenty years.

Are you currently talking to people in the country and if so, what are they telling you?

My phone rings continuously. I get text messages and emails non-stop from people trying to get out and trying to get to the airport and get on the State Department lists. I carry out my work as a legislator to respond to legislation we will need to put in place to further streamline this process and resolve legal issues that arise. But I’m also just trying to get individuals out.

What is your sense of why the Biden administration did not take the steps you asked for?

I just do not know. That question I have been asked a lot. I do not have an answer to that. I’m not a mind reader. And I think there will be plenty of time in the coming months and years to assess that. I think people are going to write books about it. I’m sure there will be think tank panels about it. And a lot of quarterbacking Monday morning. All I know is that we have one specific and unique mission right now, and that mission has not been accomplished. We are in the middle of it, and there are tens of thousands of lives that we must and can still save, and all discussion and all focus must be on doing so. And once we have achieved that, we can take the time to assess what we could have done better and what went wrong – not just over the last months and weeks, but over the last twenty years. .

Was this a matter of poor intelligence or ignoring intelligence? That Times reported on Tuesday that some intelligence assessments warned that a collapse could come soon after the withdrawal.

I sit on both the Defense Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, and I have been very aware of Afghanistan for many years, and I think the answer will be that there were more questions and problems at stake. I know there have been challenges in gathering and distilling intelligence. I know there are military concerns and problems. But there are also political concerns across two decades and multiple administrations, both Republican and Democratic. So I think the answer will be that there were many things that contributed to the rapid fall of this government and the situation we are in today.

President Biden is known for his compassion, but I have not sensed a host of compassion for Afghans, not even those who worked with the United States. Is that also your understanding?

I just deeply disagree with that. I am someone who knows the President as a man of compassion and integrity, and I do not sense that there is any personal interruption of the Afghans.

Are you in communication with the White House?

I am.

What is their sense of urgency?

I’ve been talking to several senior White House officials since last Thursday, when the security situation began to deteriorate rapidly, all the way through this morning, and I had a long call with some NSC members. And they certainly have a sense of urgency with the evacuation right now. They are increasing resources and this is an effort for all governments, all hands on deck at this point.

What is important for the White House to do?

I have received four really clear messages. One is to make sure they secure the perimeter of the airport, and I think that happened on Wednesday morning. But for me, it means extending that perimeter far enough to include the areas around the gates, and also including lines of movement and paths to the airport, because many reports show that the Taliban prevent people from going through checkpoints and using the roads to get to the airport, which apparently runs counter to the purpose of the evacuation. Nr. 2 is to get as much combat power and resources as possible in there as quickly as possible, to give us as many opportunities as we can. Nr. 3 works in close collaboration with the NGO community because the NGOs and foundations and aid groups and others actually have better opportunities right now to examine staff and identify people than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently has. We need to work closely with them to speed up the evacuation. And it also means maintaining the civilian side of the airport and getting charter flights in and out parallel to the military flights. And then the fourth message is not to establish an arbitrary August 31 deadline. But I think we should be very clear to the Taliban that the international community will expect evacuation assistance for as long as necessary.

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