Human Rights First Demands Biden Protect Afghan Allies in Drawdown
To truly “stand with” our allies, action must accompany rhetoric
WASHINGTON — In today’s address on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden offered much of the same vague rhetoric he has offered since the spring about evacuating the allies who served with American forces there. What little information his statement added raises alarm bells for Human Rights First and other advocacy organizations who believe that Afghan allies who worked with U.S. forces should be evacuated to safety as soon as possible.
“For our Afghan allies who face danger and death at the hands of the Taliban, it’s long past time for a vague presidential address that grossly mischaracterizes the threats our Afghan allies face and ignores the urgency required for an evacuation,” said Human Rights First’s senior director for government affairs Jennifer Quigley. “The president is right that we must ‘stand with’ the Afghans who put their lives on the line. Today, standing with these allies means immediately evacuating all of them to safety in the United States or one of our territories.”
“The president clearly has no grasp of what our allies are going through in Afghanistan and what the capabilities the American government has to honor our promises, said Chris Purdy, Project Manager, Veterans for American Ideals. “The president knows that we made a promise to these Afghans allies. In their time of need, we have the responsibility and capacity to keep it.”
The president’s false representation of the law — stating that evacuating these allies to U.S. territory is not legal — raises grave concerns about the future these allies face.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the legal authority to parole people into U.S. territory which will allow applicants and their families to travel to and wait safely in U.S. territory like Guam while they complete their processing for the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). The U.S. government can coordinate the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security, to issue parole authorization to Guam for eligible Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their dependents.
The president also paradoxically said, “speed is safety,” and then reported that any evacuation would not commence until August.
“Every day we do not evacuate these allies while U.S. forces withdraw makes such an operation nearly impossible to do safely,” responded Quigley. “We need to act now to bring all these allies to Guam, if President Biden truly meant ‘speed is safety,’ it would apply to Afghan allies’ lives, not just American ones. The truth is further inaction costs lives.”
The president also mischaracterized Afghans as not choosing to leave their country. In fact, visas are valid for five months, but travel is often booked in the last few weeks of visa validity. In order to travel immediately, Afghans would have to pay the exorbitant costs for the few commercial flights out of Afghanistan.
Human Rights First and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) have advocated for a concrete plan that evacuates the 18,000 Afghan allies and their families to the relative safety of U.S. territory in Guam. Guam’s governor has invited this effort, Members of Congress have endorsed it, and there is strong historical precedent for such a refugee-processing operation to be based in that U.S. territory.
For more about our evacuation plan, visit http://evacuateourallies.org.