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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Blinken says administration is ‘contemplating each choice’ to help Afghans who helped US however lawmakers are ‘pissed off’

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The highest US diplomat advised the Home International Affairs Committee that steps the administration is taking a look at embrace asking Congress to extend the variety of visas for these Afghans and the potential for humanitarian parole — a standing that permits these below speedy risk to hunt refuge within the US.

“We’re contemplating each choice,” the highest US diplomat mentioned.

However Blinken did not supply a direct reply when lawmakers pressed him on the necessity to take into account evacuating the 1000’s of Afghans ready for Particular Immigrant Visas to a 3rd nation the place they might be protected as they waited for visas.

Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the committee, referred to as on the Biden administration to evacuate any individual in Afghanistan who has reached a “vital stage” within the vetting course of for a Particular Immigrant Visa to a 3rd nation whereas they await approval, and he pressed Blinken for particulars on how the administration is dealing with this problem because the US troop withdrawal deadline of September 11 is simply months away.

‘Pissed off’

“Mr. Secretary, the clock is ticking, and the Taliban are on the march. And that is why I am calling for this administration to evacuate any one who has reached a big stage within the safety vetting course of to a 3rd nation to complete their visa processing earlier than the US completes its army retrograde. The time for platitudes and obscure guarantees are over,” McCaul advised Blinken. “We’d like motion, and we’d like it yesterday.”

After their trade, McCaul tweeted that he “was pissed off” by Blinken’s lack of a direct response on evacuating Afghans “who risked their lives to help us.” McCaul famous that the Pentagon has mentioned it’s creating plans for an evacuation. “StateDept ought to inform Congress the place they might be evacuated to,” he mentioned.

Advocates who’ve been urging the administration to hurry up this course of say the commitments Blinken made should not sufficient.

“Processing 1,000 SIVs a month doesn’t deliver the admin even near getting everybody out by September. At that tempo it could nonetheless be a yr and a half earlier than processing the total backlog,” mentioned James Miervaldis, the chairman of the group No One Left Behind, which describes itself as an all-volunteer group working to assist Particular Immigrant Visa recipients.

The Taliban put out a assertion Monday saying that the Afghans who labored alongside US and worldwide forces ought to “present regret” and “not interact” in these actions sooner or later after which the Taliban won’t go after them. However Afghans who’re in line for Particular Immigrant Visas don’t consider there may be any cause to consider the Taliban, who’ve been violently attacking these Afghans in current months.

On the Pentagon, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, which oversees the Center East area, advised reporters Monday throughout a telephone briefing that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is “about midway completed.”

“We’re on tempo, and it is persevering with very easily,” McKenzie mentioned. Requested if there is a level at which the army must decide to begin evacuating Afghan visa candidates or whether or not it may well do this even after September, he mentioned: “We can have the potential to train no matter orders we’re given. Clearly it is simpler generally than others, however the USA army has outstanding capabilities for such a factor. We are able to do no matter goes to be essential, every time it could be essential.”

Blinken advised the Home International Affairs Committee that the State Division had added 50 folks to take care of the backlog in processing candidates for Particular Immigrant Visas — a suggestion in a report from the State Division Workplace of the Inspector Basic final yr.

He additionally famous that the administration had an allotment of 26,000 of the visas and has used 15,000, leaving it with 11,000 visas to accommodate the 18,000 candidates nonetheless within the pipeline.

“We’re asking on your assist so as to add 8,000 to our cap in order that we are able to accommodate everybody, after which have the ability to come again to you if we’d like extra,” Blinken mentioned.

As lawmakers fearful aloud concerning the destiny of Afghan interpreters and others who assisted the US, Blinken mentioned that elevated violence towards these searching for Particular Immigrant Visas might not happen instantly after US troops depart the nation and argued that the US will nonetheless have vital leverage.

‘Not withdrawing from Afghanistan’

“Whilst we’re withdrawing our forces, we’re not withdrawing from Afghanistan,” Blinken advised a Home Appropriations subcommittee Monday afternoon. “We’re decided to maintain a robust embassy presence, applications to assist Afghanistan, its folks, and its authorities, financial improvement, humanitarian, the safety forces. All of that may stay. We’re working with different companions to guarantee that they continue to be as effectively, and that we keep deeply engaged in supporting the federal government, supporting the folks.”

“And no matter occurs in Afghanistan, if there’s a vital deterioration, in safety, that would effectively occur, we mentioned this earlier than, I do not suppose it’ll be one thing that occurs from a Friday to a Monday,” Blinken advised the appropriations subcommittee, “so I would not essentially equate the departure of our forces in July, August or by early September with some sort of speedy deterioration within the scenario.”

CNN’s Ellie Kaufman and Corey James contributed to this report.

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