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Sluggish visa program imperils Afghan partners as US withdraws

Caroline Simon, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

Every day, Khan gets emails and calls from people he knows in Afghanistan who are desperately trying to get special immigrant visas before U.S. forces withdraw. He says many can live with the personal risk that comes with aiding the U.S., but can’t stand the thought of their families in danger.

“I can’t do anything,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, indicated agreement with the conclusion of many independent experts and some politicians that Afghan security forces, without the support of American intelligence, logistics and training, will not be capable of staving off Taliban attacks — and the government may fall.

“Sadly, there will be a number of people who will be killed by the Taliban,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a longtime proponent of the Afghan SIV program and one of the few Democrats to oppose Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. She says many more visas are needed to meet surging demand.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a former Air Force brigadier general and the top Republican on the White House letter, was blunt about what could happen to Afghans who don’t leave the country in time.


“You’ll see people who served with us murdered, and their families murdered,” he said. “They will be hunted down, stalked, by the Taliban.”

The impact of a sluggish SIV program wouldn’t be limited to humanitarian consequences for Afghan interpreters, contractors, other employees and their families. If the U.S. fails to adequately protect its military partners when it withdraws from a conflict, future allies could be less willing to cooperate with the U.S. military, undermining national security interests.

“No one is going to be that stupid to do that again in the future,” Khan said. “The entire world is looking.”

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