In Biden’s Speech, Human Rights First Looks for a Real Plan, Accountability

Washington – As Afghans, U.S. military veterans, immigrant advocates and human rights defenders continue to wait for leadership from the White House, the United States is failing to keep its promise to those who helped us in nearly 20 years of war. In advance of President Biden’s remarks to the nation, Human Rights First and its project Veterans for American Ideals are looking for a clearly formed, meaningful evacuation strategy for Afghan military and civilian allies, something which should have been prepared and executed months ago.

“Saving as many lives as possible is the most urgent priority. It is already abundantly clear, though, that there will need to be accountability for this policy failure to protect our allies and other Afghans who are facing grave danger, simply because they worked with the U.S. government or stood up for democracy and human rights in their country,” said Mike Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “We are at a loss to understand why the White House, the State Department, and the Defense Department have failed to overcome the well-known and surmountable bureaucratic hurdles to fulfilling our obligations to those who stood with us. As an American soldier, I did my job to overcome tactical obstacles on the battlefield, including in Afghanistan with an Afghan interpreter by my side. It is disappointing to see our civilian leadership utterly fail to do their job.”

Human Rights First expects to hear an update from the president on how the U.S. will lead international efforts to deter human rights abuses in Afghanistan and hold the perpetrators accountable. Additionally, advocates are hoping for details on how Congress and the inspectors general will conduct oversight to determine why the repeated, specific and urgent warnings that time was running out were not effectively heeded.

“For months, we warned the Biden administration of the rising threat to our Afghan allies as the U.S. accelerated its withdrawal from Afghanistan. But it failed to lay out a pathway for our allies to be evacuated to safety, and now, that failure will almost certainly cost the lives of some of those the U.S. promised to protect,” said Jennifer Quigley senior director for government affairs at Human Rights First. “The Biden administration must immediately ensure the airport in Kabul is secured with all necessary military assets required to get Afghans who served with American military and civil society actors to safety. There need to be several flights a day to evacuate Afghans at risk and for this evacuation process to continue as long as possible to bring them to safety in the United States. The legal authority exists for this to be done via parole immediately. If this is not done, we will have broken our promise to leave no one behind.”


Published on August 16, 2021


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