The United States is in talks with Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to welcome some of the Afghans who have worked alongside US troops and diplomats during 20 years of conflict and who may be threatened by the Taliban as the situation security in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly. , the sources said.
One of the administration’s goals is to distribute Afghans to a number of countries so that no country is forced to take the 18,000 who are currently in the process of obtaining a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). , according to a source close to the ongoing discussions.
While the immediate goal will be to remove around 9,000 of the country’s 18,000 applicants – people in the final stages of the visa process – the effort could expand to more than 50,000, as Afghans who have applied for a visa will be given the opportunity to bring family members, sources said.
“The good news is that the administration is trying to find a solution as this is obviously a major problem and it is becoming more urgent as the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates faster than expected,” he said. said Lisa Curtis, former director of the National Security Council for South and Central Asia who is now a member of the Vandenberg Coalition, a nonprofit foreign policy group.
She adds that “the situation of the SIV is indicative of the poor planning of the global drawdown. It was brutal and a little too sudden”.
After detailing his withdrawal plans, his hopes for the ailing Afghan civilian government and his take on US air support, Biden bristled with new questions about the state of Afghanistan on Friday. “I will no longer answer any questions about Afghanistan,” Biden told reporters.
“Look, it’s July 4th,” Biden said, gesturing in exasperation. “I’m afraid you’ll ask me questions which I’ll answer next week. It’s a statutory holiday weekend. I’m going to celebrate it. Great things are happening.”
“Bring our troops home”
“We are bringing our troops home. All over America people are going to football games and doing good things,” Biden said.
The State Department and the embassies of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan did not respond to requests for comment.
Administration officials and the president himself said the Afghans would be taken care of, without providing details.
No One Left Behind, a group dedicated to helping Afghan interpreters obtain SIV visas, says more than 300 interpreters and their families have already been killed by extremists as a result of their work with US troops and diplomats .
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday that the administration had “identified a group of SIV candidates who have served in these positions, as well as others who have helped us over the years and who may be at risk. They and their families will have the option of being transferred to a location outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military withdrawal by September. “Price added that the ministry is working with others. agencies in this effort.
The White House has pledged to speed up visas for Afghans who have worked closely with the United States on the SIV program, but congressional lawmakers have expressed frustration over the lack of communication on how the administration will carry out its plan.
The State Department did not specify how many people will be offered the opportunity to settle in a third country while they wait for their visas to be processed, which countries have agreed to take them, whether they have informed Afghans of this option, nor how the ministry determines which visa applicants might be at risk.
“I continue to be very concerned for the safety and security of the Afghans who served alongside our forces and other Afghans who also face increasing threats to their lives from extremists, including those who worked for the U.S. government, defense contractors, and the International Security Assistance Force. / Resolute Support Mission, as well as Afghans who worked for democracy, human rights and US-backed emergency preparedness programs, ”Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently wrote in a letter to Secretary Antony Blinken.
“The United States has a moral obligation to these Afghans and their families who are persecuted and threatened with death because of their support for the Americans in Afghanistan,” he said.
“A moral obligation”
The foreign ministers of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan visited Washington this week, meeting with Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to discuss Afghanistan.
“A lot of good and important work is being done this week on vital relations between the United States and Uzbekistan,” Blinken said Thursday during his meeting with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. “We have strong common security interests in the region, especially with regard to Afghanistan.
Congress has not been made aware of plans to send Afghan visa applicants to the three countries, congressional aides told CNN on Friday morning, despite massive bipartisan pressure to ensure protection for the thousands of Afghans who have assisted the United States during its nearly two decades of military service.
Within the Capitol Hill committees that oversee military and foreign policy matters, there is frustration that the administration does not share more information about its plans to help Afghan interpreters and translators.
Lawmakers have virtually no information on the administration’s plans, according to Senate and House advisers. They seek answers from the administration to a multitude of questions, including how much planning has been done for possible evacuations, which administration officials have been tasked with overseeing this work, in which countries they might. be sent while their visas are being processed, how those countries were chosen and what the role of the State Department is.
“We are eagerly awaiting the information,” said a congressional adviser. “The idea that there is a September deadline to get these people out doesn’t make sense, because once our people are out, these people are sitting ducks.”
No One Left Behind applauded reports of talks with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but other advocates who had advocated for the administration to relocate SIV claimants to Guam have expressed questions and concerns.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chief executive officer of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told CNN she had “more questions than answers” following reports of the talks, noting that it is not clear where the applicants would live, whether there is support for the thousands of temporary residents and how their safety will be ensured. She noted that her organization had yet to hear a formal, concrete and achievable plan to protect Afghans.
Matt Zeller, a US veteran who served in Afghanistan and a member of the Truman Center for National Security, said on Twitter Friday that the developments were “a deep disappointment and a complete abdication of our responsibility.”
“@POTUS has completely failed if that happens. Prediction: Many of these Afghans languish for years in refugee camps only to be eventually deported to Afghanistan,” he wrote.
“Make no mistake, outsourcing our problem to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is the administration’s worst possible choice,” Chris Purdy, director of Veterans for American Ideals at Human Rights First, said in a statement. . “Not only is this an abdication of our responsibility to the allies who risked their lives for US forces, but it also unnecessarily creates a potential human rights disaster for those who have already endured years of persecution and threats of violence. violence for their service in the United States. “