Veterans leading Afghan evacuations demand help from Biden and Congress

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Hundreds of veterans and other front-line volunteers have organized the ongoing evacuation from Afghanistan, saying their efforts have become “untenable” without increased US government support.

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In a letter to President Joe Biden and members of Congress, a coalition of more than 100 veterans and other groups organized under the #AfghanEvac list 15 steps that the US government needs to “honour its promise to those in need.” Those who remain at risk “have a connection to American activities in Afghanistan.”

“Success depends on improving inter-agency coordination, increasing evacuation capacity and resettlement throughput, and our government can only fulfill roles and responsibilities in line with the expectations of the American people and our Afghan allies,” the coalition said.


The letter, signed by more than 285 veterans and volunteers, calls on the Biden administration to appoint a visible leader with a dedicated staff by February 2022 to coordinate federal agencies and create an actionable multi-year plan for the Afghan evacuation.

Sean VanDiver, Navy veteran and founder of #AfghanEvac, said such a position is important because at this point in time “we don’t really know who’s in charge.”

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“It’s not a two-week mission – it’s months, maybe years long,” he said in a phone interview. “So we want a person in government to be able to take advantage of all the means available to the US government. We got to the moon. We can solve this.”

The groups also want the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to expedite the processing of visa applications, interviews and medical waivers, and waive all related application fees, while the Defense Department maintains locations in countries where Afghans can be evacuated. Is.

Evacuations have slowed significantly since the US left Afghanistan in August, and one issue is the ability to hold refugees overseas while their immigration status is processed by US agencies. Another problem is that there are still a large number of Afghan allies who need to leave the country.

Alex Plitsus, an Iraq and Afghanistan military veteran who worked with the Human First Coalition to help evacuate the Afghans, said the number of people who still need to leave the country is comparable to the number that the US would expect. were able to escape earlier. The military is gone.

The difference is that the massive airlift and the resources of the Pentagon and State Department that assisted with those evacuations are gone.

“None of them exist anymore,” he said. “There’s no functioning embassy on the ground. Nowhere to conduct interviews, nowhere to physically issue visas to people whose passports were destroyed during the evacuation operation. And they’re in effect right now.” Got stuck.”

The letter further called for Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would make it easier for evacuees to access the US immigration system and find a path to citizenship. The signatories also asked Congress to provide greater funding for these efforts through the State Department and USAID, with several groups notably noting that private donations have declined as American public attention has shifted. Is.

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Another request is that the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services work together to provide mental health services to Afghans, and that American volunteers and public servants volunteer themselves for the return. has been dedicated to.

Christopher Goldsmith, an Iraq War veteran who worked with Veterans for American Ideals to help evacuate the Afghans, said that he and other veterans and volunteers who have committed themselves to the effort are encouraged by allies living in Afghanistan. I keep getting countless messages from him. They express their fear for their lives and the lives of their families and despair at being left behind, and it takes a heavy toll – especially when the process proves to be extremely frustrating, they said.

Goldsmith, who has openly shared her struggles with PTSD and worked with veterans on their mental health challenges, said the messages, frustrations and disappointments she received reflected on 15 years of calls from veterans seeking help. has done.

“People I’ve lost in the past who asked for help and who I couldn’t reach in time: I feel like a piece of my heart has died,” he said. “I can say with certainty that the call for help that our entire community is receiving now and will continue to receive has condensed in just a few weeks – and This ad repeats Nausea.”

Van Diver, Plitsch and Goldsmith all noted that attempts to remove the Afghans are apolitical. He has no desire to favor one political party over another in this effort to aid Afghans who help America.

He said the focus on politics would undermine his work and anger veterans, volunteers, public servants and professionals whose “common goal of expelling Afghan allies affected by a 20-year US mission,” the letter said. They have the country.”

“Partitionism will kill this effort on the volunteer side as well as the government side,” VanDiver said. “If everyone is trying to get cheap political points then there is nothing we can do. Those who say they stand with the giants should know that we are not interested in that kind of behavior or way. Not there.”

Goldsmith emphasized this point further.

“If politicians want to play games with us and say they support the troops and then turn around and say, ‘You know, we really don’t want to bring Afghans into America’ or they want to block roadblocks, “They have to deal with a generation of vets who have lost friends because of this preventable problem,” Goldsmith said.

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