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Soon, 18,000 Afghan translators could die, and their blood will be on our hands. We are approaching an emergency situation as we plan to leave Afghanistan. Although we have a program in place, the Special Immigrant Visa Program (established in 2009), to save those Afghanis who worked for us, our State Department demonstrates once again its inability to get out of its own way. The U.S Embassy in Kabul recently suspended visa operations.
And many people will die.
The first dire issue is the impossibly slow processing of the visas by the State Department. Even though they’ve known for months that a withdrawal date was approaching, they didn’t make the effort to find other ways to save these people in the meantime. The dangers of the Taliban making inroads are already apparent:
The Taliban is on the move—now contesting more than half of the country’s districts and controlling more than does the Kabul government. More than 400 central government forces and about 260 civilians were killed last month, the deadliest since the summer of 2019. The Taliban has targeted translators and their families in the past, killing hundreds, and they will continue to do so as they take more territory.
The State Department said that Covid-19 killed an embassy employee, and the safety of diplomatic personnel should always be a priority. But the department made a point of vaccinating its staff abroad for a reason: Its work is critical, even during a pandemic, as Afghanistan makes clear.
What are a couple of alternatives?
Even a functioning visa program is insufficient at this point. President Biden can save lives by doing more, such as the evacuation of applicants to a temporary third country as the process plays out. Or he could provide them with humanitarian parole, which grants temporary permission to enter the U.S.
Anthony Blinken has made a point of saying that he cares:
‘I’ve actually lost personal friends and colleagues who supported the Americans.’
U.S. officials say there is no plan to evacuate these Afghan translators. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said this recently on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’: ‘Evacuation is the wrong word. We’re determined to make good on our obligation to those who helped us, who put their lives on the line, put their families’ lives on the line working with our military, working with our diplomats.’
I don’t think the families of the translators care what he calls the process, or even that he cares. His sentiments won’t save lives. Keep in mind that the 18,000 people at risk probably doesn’t include family members of the translators.
Protestations by members of Congress Jason Crow and Michael Waltz appear to be falling on deaf ears:
‘We are here today to urge the Biden Administration. To do the right thing and to evacuate those who stood by us at great personal risk,’ Crow said. Waltz added a direct challenge to Biden who famously said in 1975 that the U.S. did not have an obligation to evacuate those Vietnamese who worked with the U.S. military and government.
I want to be clear, if he doesn’t act and he doesn’t get these people out, blood will be on his hands and on his administration’s hands,’ Waltz said. ‘And I, for one, will very publicly and very loudly hold him accountable for that.’
Crow added: ‘There is a moral imperative at play here. The American handshake has to mean something.’
The Senate proposed changes to the SIV program a little over one week ago; the House proposed organizing a task force to look into evacuation of the translators. Meanwhile, withdrawal of our troops is more than 50% complete and could be completed as early as July 4.
I am certain that once more, as we watch this inept administration, the world is taking notes. Both allies and enemies.Published in