The top two lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee are calling on the Biden administration to take swift action to ensure the safety of Afghans who aided US intelligence agencies during the 20-year war — noting the current “increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan.”
In a letter sent to President Biden on Thursday, Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) cautioned that Afghan partners face an increased threat from the Taliban, and called for actions to be taken, such as authorizing special immigrant visas to ensure protections.
“As your administration conducts its withdrawal of military personnel from Afghanistan, we ask that you ensure the safety and security of Afghans who have worked closely with our intelligence agencies and partners. For two decades, thousands of Afghans have risked their lives to work with intelligence professionals from the United States and other NATO countries to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups,” they wrote.
“Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland. Given the increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s direct targeting of Afghan partners to the United States, we ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas, evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.”
The lawmakers noted there are currently limited options for Afghan partners to obtain Special Immigrant Visas, adding that the lengthy process may not provide adequate time to protect the US allies.
They argued that expediting and providing additional resources is critical in ensuring they remain safe and secure, amid “the rapid deterioration in security.”
“Currently the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program offers one avenue for our Afghan allies, but its timeline – a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline – does not align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security. While we urge you to expedite this program and stand ready to provide additional resources for a faster processing timeline, we also ask that you consider the other evacuation options listed above,” they continued.
“Further, we ask that you consider whether there is sufficient capacity at U.S. facilities to process applications from those Afghan personnel who have made our efforts possible over the last two decades, or whether there is – given the rapid pace of withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan – sufficient capacity to evacuate our Afghan partners quickly as needs arise.”
Warner and Rubio warned that failing to provide support could be detrimental and potentially damaging to US foreign relations.
“Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners about the United States’ reliability and trustworthiness,” they wrote.
“It would also be a stain on our national conscience. We stand ready to support your effort to ensure these Afghan partners are protected.”
The Biden administration said earlier this week it plans to evacuate Afghanistan citizens who aided US troops, announcing it would launch “Operation Allies Refuge.”
Biden announced last week that the mission in Afghanistan will conclude by Aug. 31.
The decision to remove troops has been met with mixed response, with proponents arguing the US needs to stop engaging in “endless wars,” while critics argue removing troops could further destabilize the region and present a threat to the United States and its allies.