Our Feckless State Department Is an Embarrassment

 

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 Foreign Policy
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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    There’s always the possibility that the lives of those who help the U.S. don’t matter.   It might be different with the lives of those who are hostile to the U.S.  

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    There’s always the possibility that the lives of those who help the U.S. don’t matter. It might be different with the lives of those who are hostile to the U.S.

    That might be true, @thereticulator, but as we continue to ask countries to back us up against Russia or China, can’t you just see them asking us, “Why”?

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    “Is” → “remains.”

    Otherwise, spot-on Susan.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    “Is” → “remains.”

    Otherwise, spot-on Susan.

    Oops–I think I fixed it. Thanks!

    • #4
  5. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    I hope none of us are surprised. The Democrats are in control now. They’re going to do what they did in South Vietnam and Iraq. They’ll withdraw our presence in the most disruptive and destructive ways available to them. They will manage the situation to do the most harm they can get away with in the current window. They will place the highest value on harming the United States and secondarily its allies, but they will still place high value on harming any moral actor within reach.

    This is what all leftist people do. Leftists always seek to advance their tribe and theirselves by creating divisions they can exploit. This is a fundamental principle, and may be applied to explain and predict most of what they do.

    • #5
  6. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Susan Quinn: And many people will die.

    Sums up my view of government that last few years.  There is so much bad stuff, it is hard to keep up with the incompetence/malevolence.   Overwhelming us is all part of the plan…

    • #6
  7. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    It seems to me that the esteemed GWB is not so averse to yapping his gums these days about those who have come along after him in the big chair. I’m anxiously awaiting his statement on this issue…

    • #7
  8. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    Years ago I signed several change.org petitions to help U.S. soldier led efforts to get the translators (and their families) they worked with in Iraq and Afghanistan visas and transport to the United States. These campaigns were successful, but I’m convinced it was less about the change.org petitions and much more about getting members of Congress to personally advocate for individual translators and pestering the State Department over and over and over again to prioritize these cases. Each individual case took forever. I’d get email updates for years until a translator and his family were finally in the States. I unsubscribed from change.org emails a few years ago when they started bombarding me with admonitions to sign petitions for leftist causes that had nothing to do with my history of involvement on the site.

    I’m not optimistic that Blinken’s platitudes will result in major and timely moves to protect the large number of individuals still there.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    “Is” → “remains.”

    Otherwise, spot-on Susan.

    Oops–I think I fixed it. Thanks!

    It was a joke. I meant the title. I’ve been embarrassed by them for a long time now.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    “Is” → “remains.”

    Otherwise, spot-on Susan.

    Oops–I think I fixed it. Thanks!

    It was a joke. I meant the title. I’ve been embarrassed by them for a long time now.

    Oh! But  I did have a noun/verb disagreement in the post! That’s what I fixed, but now I won’t tell you where it was! ;-)

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    DJ EJ (View Comment):

    Years ago I signed several change.org petitions to help U.S. soldier led efforts to get the translators (and their families) they worked with in Iraq and Afghanistan visas and transport to the United States. These campaigns were successful, but I’m convinced it was less about the change.org petitions and much more about getting members of Congress to personally advocate for individual translators and pestering the State Department over and over and over again to prioritize these cases. Each individual case took forever. I’d get email updates for years until a translator and his family were finally in the States. I unsubscribed from change.org emails a few years ago when they started bombarding me with admonitions to sign petitions for leftist causes that had nothing to do with my history of involvement on the site.

    I’m not optimistic that Blinken’s platitudes will result in major and timely moves to protect the large number of individuals still there.

    You are correct on all counts, @djej. And now we are down to the wire. I can’t see a way that they can keep a disaster from happening. Thanks for your efforts.

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: I am certain that once more, as we watch this inept administration, the world is taking notes. Both allies and enemies.

    Damn straight they’re taking notes.  Every word stumble, every gaff, every hem and haw Biden says is being studied by our enemies.  Our MSM ignores the brain freezes, but not the rest of the world.  Likewise, Harris is also no doubt being studied with intense scrutiny as well, given she could become President at any moment.  With these idiots at the helm, we can expect bad things to happen.

    Russia will annex the Ukraine.

    China will conquer Taiwan.

    Iran will get and use a nuclear weapon.

    BLM and antifa riots will intensify over the summer.

    And we’re being distracted by UFO reports, Chrissy Teigen bullying news, and the death of Biden’s oldest dog.

    • #12
  13. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    18,000 translators and others? And the USG can’t manage to save their lives from the Taliban?

    Hey, isn’t that number about equal to three days’ worth of illegals crossing into the US from Mexico? Whereupon the USG lavishes freebies upon them?

    Priorities much? 

    • #13
  14. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Fritz (View Comment):
    18,000 translators and others? And the USG can’t manage to save their lives from the Taliban?

    Hey, isn’t that number about equal to three days’ worth of illegals crossing into the US from Mexico? Whereupon the USG lavishes freebies upon them?

    Priorities much?

    Not mine. And I’m tiring of it. I’m not going to accept replacement.

    Most of those Afghanis we’re abandoning would make good Americans. That, I submit, is precisely why we’re going to abandon them.

    • #14
  15. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Good post, Susan.  I wrote about this issue this morning:  Betrayal.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Fritz (View Comment):
    18,000 translators and others? And the USG can’t manage to save their lives from the Taliban?

    Hey, isn’t that number about equal to three days’ worth of illegals crossing into the US from Mexico? Whereupon the USG lavishes freebies upon them?

    Priorities much?

    Not mine. And I’m tiring of it. I’m not going to accept replacement.

    Most of those Afghanis we’re abandoning would make good Americans. That, I submit, is precisely why we’re going to abandon them.

    Reading some of the stories, those who have already come are thrilled to be here, even enlisted in our military. Yeah, you’re right, why would we want those types here . . . 

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Good post, Susan. I wrote about this issue this morning: Betrayal.

    Love it, David. Not a bad idea, either!

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I am certain that once more, as we watch this inept administration, the world is taking notes. Both allies and enemies.

    Damn straight they’re taking notes. Every word stumble, every gaff, every hem and haw Biden says is being studied by our enemies. Our MSM ignores the brain freezes, but not the rest of the world. Likewise, Harris is also no doubt being studied with intense scrutiny as well, given she could become President at any moment. With these idiots at the helm, we can expect bad things to happen.

    Russia will annex the Ukraine.

    China will conquer Taiwan.

    Iran will get and use a nuclear weapon.

    BLM and antifa riots will intensify over the summer.

    And we’re being distracted by UFO reports, Chrissy Teigen bullying news, and the death of Biden’s oldest dog.

    I can’t help but cringe when I contemplate the future, Stad. It’s pretty grim.

    • #18
  19. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I am certain that once more, as we watch this inept administration, the world is taking notes. Both allies and enemies.

    Damn straight they’re taking notes. Every word stumble, every gaff, every hem and haw Biden says is being studied by our enemies. Our MSM ignores the brain freezes, but not the rest of the world. Likewise, Harris is also no doubt being studied with intense scrutiny as well, given she could become President at any moment. With these idiots at the helm, we can expect bad things to happen.

    Russia will annex the Ukraine.

    China will conquer Taiwan.

    Iran will get and use a nuclear weapon.

    BLM and antifa riots will intensify over the summer.

    And we’re being distracted by UFO reports, Chrissy Teigen bullying news, and the death of Biden’s oldest dog.

    Just the way Obama would have done. It really is the third term.

    • #19
  20. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Fritz (View Comment):
    18,000 translators and others? And the USG can’t manage to save their lives from the Taliban?

    Hey, isn’t that number about equal to three days’ worth of illegals crossing into the US from Mexico? Whereupon the USG lavishes freebies upon them?

    Priorities much?

    Not mine. And I’m tiring of it. I’m not going to accept replacement.

    Most of those Afghanis we’re abandoning would make good Americans. That, I submit, is precisely why we’re going to abandon them.

    Insufficiently cynical 😬

    • #20
  21. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Oh, but they got a sitcom “AL” so its all good. (sigh)

    • #21
  22. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    philo (View Comment):

    It seems to me that the esteemed GWB is not so averse to yapping his gums these days about those who have come along after him in the big chair. I’m anxiously awaiting his statement on this issue…

    Right.  He always was eager to write cheques he couldnt cash.  Just like his Daddy.

    • #22
  23. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I wonder how anyone could know whether 18,000 people that they have never met would make good Americans.

    • #23
  24. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I wonder how anyone could know whether 18,000 people that they have never met would make good Americans.

    Maybe just the contrast between how much those people have risked etc, versus those who come up from Mexico etc when there’s a “FREE STUFF!” sign at the border?

     

    • #24
  25. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I wonder how anyone could know whether 18,000 people that they have never met would make good Americans.

    Maybe because they assisted US troops and aren’t crossing the US border while participating in drug or human trafficking?

    Might give ’em a leg up on the application.

    • #25
  26. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I wonder how anyone could know whether 18,000 people that they have never met would make good Americans.

    Maybe just the contrast between how much those people have risked etc, versus those who come up from Mexico etc when there’s a “FREE STUFF!” sign at the border?

    Gazpacho Grande' (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I wonder how anyone could know whether 18,000 people that they have never met would make good Americans.

    Maybe because they assisted US troops and aren’t crossing the US border while participating in drug or human trafficking?

    Might give ’em a leg up on the application.

    These do not provide much of a reason to allow 18,000 Afghans into our country.  There is nothing about their beliefs, nothing about their characteristics, nothing about whether or not they would fit into American society, which seems quite unlikely.

    But: (1) they “assisted American troops” and (2) they’re not illegal aliens.  That’s not remotely enough for me.  It is strange, to me, that this seems to be enough to convince some of you.

    In what way did they assist American troops?  Did they just take jobs as translators?  Were they members of tribes or other groups affiliated with the US-supported Afghan regime?  Based on what little I know about the Afghan regime, seems quite odious, though at least it’s been on our side against the Taliban.

    Both the OP, and the comments, seem derived from a rather simple view of the world, in which there are guys in white hats and guys in black hats.  I find the world to be more complicated than that.  We often have allies of convenience who side with us in various conflicts because it is in their interest to do so.  When circumstances change, the alliance dissolves.

    The idea that anyone who fought on our side is a good guy, who would make a good American, is plainly incorrect.  Stalin and Mao fought on our side in WWII.

     

     

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    First, we promised to provide visas under these qualifications https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/siv-iraqi-afghan-translators-interpreters.html#step1:

    You may apply for this program if you meet all of the following requirements:

    • You must be a national of Iraq or Afghanistan; and
    • You must have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under COM authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least 12 months; and
    • You must have obtained a favorable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer in the chain of command of the U.S. Armed Forces unit that was supported by you, as a translator or interpreter, or from the Chief of Mission from the embassy where you worked.

    Please note that they must have a written recommendation to even start the process.

    Given the dire situation, I would be fine sending them to another country (with the country’s approval, of course) while they are being processed. I also think there are probably ways to streamline the approval process.

    These people took these jobs knowing they were risking their lives, even while they were doing their jobs. Now that their work will be over, you can be sure the Taliban will try to kill every one of them. 

    If you can live with that Jerry, fine.

    • #27
  28. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    First, we promised to provide visas under these qualifications https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/siv-iraqi-afghan-translators-interpreters.html#step1:

    You may apply for this program if you meet all of the following requirements:

    • You must be a national of Iraq or Afghanistan; and
    • You must have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under COM authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least 12 months; and
    • You must have obtained a favorable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer in the chain of command of the U.S. Armed Forces unit that was supported by you, as a translator or interpreter, or from the Chief of Mission from the embassy where you worked.

    Please note that they must have a written recommendation to even start the process.

    Given the dire situation, I would be fine sending them to another country (with the country’s approval, of course) while they are being processed. I also think there are probably ways to streamline the approval process.

    These people took these jobs knowing they were risking their lives, even while they were doing their jobs. Now that their work will be over, you can be sure the Taliban will try to kill every one of them.

    If you can live with that Jerry, fine.

    Susan, thanks for the link.  I know nothing about this situation, other than what you have reported, and the general impressions that: (1) the Taliban are bad folks,  (2) the situation in Afghanistan is a mess, and (3) even the folks on our side probably don’t share our values.

    If I understand the link that you provided, we passed a law back in 2006 allowing immigration of up to 50 Afghan or Iraqi translators each year.  This quote was increased to 500/year for 2007 and 2008 only.  I may be incorrect about this, as it is a lengthy web page.

    If my impression is correct, then we did not promise immigration to these folks.  It was limited to a tiny number.  Your proposal, now, is to allow 360 years worth of immigration under this provision.

    On the question of what the Taliban would do, my reaction is that it must be nice to have such perfect information about what will occur in the future.  I have no such gift.

    I do expect that a Taliban take-over will be rough on many Afghans who are opposed to the Taliban, probably far beyond the 18,000 referenced in your OP.  This sort of terrible thing happens all over the world, and we cannot provide a refuge to everyone.  I can live with this, because I don’t see any viable alternative.

    I do admit to having a negative emotional reaction to your argument.  I don’t like being accused of being a murderer, unfairly in my view.  

    • #28
  29. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Submitted for clarification. If the State Department is feckless, should people be telling the State Department to get fecked, or should they be told to avoid outsourcing, and to just feck themselves ?

    <sarcasm off >
    <cynicism always on >

    • #29
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry, I gave you the wrong link; this is the overall program that embeds the one for translators:

    In addition to the information on this website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted on its website a fact sheet and information on Form I-360 petitions for this program.

    This program is completely distinct from another program authorizing SIVs for certain Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who worked directly with the United States Armed Forces or under COM authority, although some translators and interpreters may qualify under both programs. For information on that program, see Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters.

    A special immigrant is a person who qualifies for lawful permanent residence under one of several programs.  Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, is a special immigrant program, which authorizes the issuance of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals who meet certain requirements and who were employed in Afghanistan:

    • by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan, or
    • by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission, in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF.

    The SIV program requires applicants who submit applications after September 30, 2015, to have been employed for a minimum of two years, between October 7, 2001, and December 31, 2022.  Applicants must also have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of their employment.  For more information about the relevant U.S. laws, see References – U.S. Laws.

    In addition to the information on this website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted on its website a fact sheet and information on Form I-360 petitions for this program.

    This program is completely distinct from another program authorizing SIVs for certain Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who worked directly with the United States Armed Forces or under COM authority, although some translators and interpreters may qualify under both programs.  For information on that program, see Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters.

    I can find no information that suggests that 18,000 would not be covered by the program. You know very well I wasn’t saying we should be a refuge for the entire world.

    • #30