US urged to help more people flee Taliban-led Afghanistan
Washington — The coalition of organizations working to evacuate people who could be targeted by Taliban leaders in Afghanistan on Monday appealed for more help from the US government and other countries as conditions in the country deteriorate.
Members of the Afghan Alliance Ivac met in a video call with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to press for additional resources to help tens of thousands of people out of Afghanistan, which is now facing a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis as well as an unstable security situation. The situation after the withdrawal of the United States.
Participants then said they are grateful for what the State Department has done so far, including helping to arrange a series of evacuation flights for US citizens and residents since the withdrawal, but more will be needed in the coming months.
Doing enough for the State Department is not enough. We need complete government solutions. “We need the international community to step up and we need it fast,” said Peter Loser, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan and works with members of the Team America coalition. “Winter is coming. There is already a famine.”
Private groups, especially those with ties to the veteran community, have played an important role in the evacuation and resettlement of tens of thousands of Afghans since the United States ended its longest war and the government fell to the Taliban. Members of the alliance, which includes about 100 organizations, work to help people get rare flights out of the country and help them settle into communities once they reach the United States.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the call included a discussion of what he called our “collective efforts” to assist visa holders and applicants and “facilitate the departure of those individuals who are at a point in which it is appropriate to do so.”
About 82,000 people have arrived in the United States so far as part of what the Biden administration calls the Welcome Allies Process. The Department of Homeland Security said 10% were US citizens or permanent residents.
The rest are a group of people on special immigrant visas, for those who worked for the United States government as interpreters or in another capacity; Persons who apply for a visa but have not yet obtained one; Or other Afghans who would be vulnerable under Taliban rule, such as journalists or government officials, who qualify as refugees. Almost half of them are children.
As of Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said about 46,000 were still residing on local US military bases until they could be resettled by private refugee organizations across the country. Another 2,600 remain at overseas transit points, dubbed “lily pads,” where they undergo security and health checks before coming to the United States.
The State Department said separately on Monday that some people coming to the United States from countries other than Afghanistan under the broader refugee program will be temporarily delayed so that refugee agencies can focus on resettling Afghans. The suspension will last until January 11 and will not apply to certain categories, including urgent cases, family reunification and those who have already made travel arrangements.
The Afghan Alliance IFAC has urged the US government to create more “tulip platforms”, and work with other countries to create more corridors for people to reach safety. It’s unclear how many people need to be evacuated, but organizations conservatively put the number in the tens of thousands. Aid agencies said about 300,000 have fled Afghanistan to Iran, including many members of Shiite communities who are seeking refuge from the Taliban and Islamic State attacks in the country.
Lussier and Sean Vandiver, founder of the alliance, said without providing details that they have raised “identified stumbling blocks” and “choke points” that prevent people from reaching safety in the United States or elsewhere. Both said that solving these problems would require more time and input from other parts of the government.
“The answers are complex,” Lussier said. “There are no simple technical solutions to much of this.”
The meeting comes against the background of severe criticism by some Republicans in Congress, who attacked the frantic evacuation, which was initiated by President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a peace agreement with the Taliban and set a date for withdrawal, and what they have. Allegedly inadequate screening of refugees. They also accused the administration of underestimating the number of American citizens left behind.
Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to Blinkin Monday requesting interviews with more than 30 State Department officials to address what they described as “the many unanswered questions about planning—or lack thereof—that preceded the withdrawal and evacuation.” This includes the number of US citizens and residents who remain in Afghanistan and the mechanisms for ongoing evacuations.
As of Monday, the United States has assisted the departure of 435 US citizens and 325 permanent residents since August 31, including some recent flights, according to Price.
Blinken said Friday that the United States has offered the opportunity to leave Afghanistan to all US citizens and permanent residents it has identified as remaining in the country who wish to leave and have appropriate travel documents. Biden administration officials have reported that several hundred Americans remain in Afghanistan, though not all have indicated a desire to leave.
The Gulf state of Qatar agreed to represent the United States in Taliban-run Afghanistan after the US embassy was closed in Kabul and would handle consular services for American citizens in Afghanistan and would handle routine official contacts between Washington and the Taliban government.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.
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