Democratic senator urges Biden to appoint Afghanistan ‘escape tsar’

In a letter to Biden on Tuesday, Blumenthal said he has “serious concerns about the ongoing obstacles to evacuating Afghans at risk,” urging the administration to expand efforts “and outlining a clear, effective strategy to expedite the evacuation” of these Afghans. and the remaining US citizens in the country.

“Many Afghans who work for the US government, serve alongside our military, or dedicate their lives to the US mission in Afghanistan, remain in the country at significant imminent risk.” , the Connecticut Democrat wrote.

“A number of people were detained, tortured and killed,” he continued.

Blumenthal’s letter arrives on the same day as the release of a The report from Human Rights Watch detailing the execution or forced disappearance of 47 former members of the Afghan National Security Forces over the past few months.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Blumenthal noted that “time is not on our side – these families simply don’t have a longer wait time.”

“Their situation is increasingly dire and urgent. And we are becoming more and more frustrated,” he said.

‘Tsar Evacuated’

Among the recommendations outlined in her letter, Blumenthal urged the President to press for an “‘evacuation tsar’ with clear direction and authority of the president to implement” an evacuation strategy and coordinate cross-sectoral responses to evacuation and resettlement. Those efforts are overseen by several federal agencies, including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

In mid-October, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs exploit veteran diplomat Beth Jones to lead the agency’s relocation and resettlement efforts in Afghanistan, and a State Department official told CNN Tuesday that since the United States withdrew from Afghanistan on Aug. continues to assist 470 US citizens and 417 Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) leaving from Afghanistan, in addition to their immediate family members.”

“We are actively facilitating the departure of Afghans to whom we have a special commitment because of their relationship with the US government, especially its local staff. we and the passport holders have an actual SIV,” the official said, referring to the special immigrant visa. “Of the actual SIV holders in Afghanistan, we have directly helped more than half leave the country. As we have said before, we will not stop this effort as we stand with our allies. Afghanistan.”

A source familiar with the matter said that nearly 600 special immigrant visa holders have left Afghanistan, 300 of whom have done so with US government support.

In September, a senior State Department official said that “the vast majority” of Afghans who had aided Americans in the war in Afghanistan had been left behind in the military evacuation. While the Department was unable to release an exact number of Afghan allies remaining in the country, Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month that there are Nearly 30,000 Afghans are in the process of applying for special immigrant visas.

Blumenthal told CNN on Tuesday that he envisions “tsar evacuating” going beyond Jones’ role and reporting directly to Biden. He said such a person must have the “caliber, reputation, talents and abilities” of someone who could hold a Cabinet-level position, comparing his role to that of the President’s Special Envoy for Climate. John Kerry, a former secretary of state.

Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the White House has “didn’t really comment in a real way” on his proposal for an evacuation, and he said with “lack of clarity.” policy clarity” from the government regarding evacuation.

Charter flight

The Connecticut Democrat expressed particular frustration at such a lack of clarity on charter flights, telling CNN, “I don’t mean to be too harsh, but charter flights are game.” only in town and the State Department did nothing to get them. off the face of the earth. They seemed to be almost the opposite of them.”

At the beginning of September, Blumenthal has criticized the administration for its handling of charter flights based in northern Afghanistan, saying in a statement that he was “deeply frustrated, even angry, at the delays and inaction of our government.”

In Tuesday’s letter, Blumenthal noted that “humanitarian charter flights independently organized and funded by nonprofit organizations can expedite evacuations in tandem with government efforts.” government,” but said some of these flights were denied permission to land in Qatar “because some of their manifests did not fit certain narrowly defined categories set forth by the Department of State.” assigned to establish.”

A US State Department official told CNN on Tuesday that they “evaluated requests for assistance on a case-by-case basis to support privately held charter flights”, noting that “there are two factors: important factor for moving groups and individuals through chartered flights – arranging for safe departure and travel out of Afghanistan as well as where these individuals can go temporarily and ultimately permanently resettled.”

“There have been significant challenges with some privately chartered flights,” the official said. “Without staff on the ground to ensure the truthfulness of the intended declarations, it is not possible to determine whether the passengers on board are eligible to relocate or resettle in the United States.” are not.”

“In a number of cases where private entities chartered aircraft to transport individuals out of Afghanistan, identity checks upon arrival at transit points revealed many passengers ineligible for transfer to the United States and In some cases, the declarations are inaccurate, despite the best efforts of the private organizations that support these regulations,” the official said.

Such a situation, the official said, “puts individual travelers at risk of not planning to travel to the United States; damages U.S. bilateral relationships with destination countries; and puts the U.S. government at risk. Ky has a harder time relying on those partner countries for support in future relocations from Afghanistan.”

In mid-November, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to 17 members of the “AfghanEvac Coalition,” which describes itself as “a coalition of private, nonprofit, government and all-volunteer organisations. staff focused on communications, efforts, and systemic issues across the spectrum of efforts focused on helping Afghans evacuate and resettle safely, quickly, and within the limits of the law. .”

Safe and survivable, but & # 39;  traumatized, & # 39;  The future of these Afghan female footballers is very uncertain

State Department spokesman Ned Price said after that meeting that they discussed “our collective effort to assist SIV owners and applicants” and “our efforts to continuing to allow these individuals to go is at the right stage to do so.”

This story has been updated with comment from a State Department official.


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