Aug 20, 2021
A coalition of more than 60 progressive advocacy organizations, led by Afghans For a Better Tomorrow, on Thursday released a letter detailing what the Biden administration can do "to save Afghan lives and prevent further harm to the Afghan people."
"Given the two decades of U.S. involvement in this devastating conflict, the United States' moral obligations do not end with its exit from the military theater in Afghanistan."
The White House has faced criticism for not doing enough to assist people attempting to flee Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban's reconquest of the war-torn country.
"Afghanistan is entering a humanitarian crisis it has not seen in decades in the wake of the exit by U.S. military forces," the coalition wrote. "The Taliban have nearly taken over the entirety of the country and President Ghani has fled. The U.S. has evacuated its embassy and is currently attempting to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced."
The letter--endorsed by dozens of pro-peace groups, including CodePink, Institute for Policy Studies, MPower Change, and Veterans for Peace--continues: "There are reports of the Taliban executing women in extrajudicial killings as well as imposing restrictions on women and journalists. Cash liquidity at banks is becoming an issue as droves of Afghans are withdrawing cash."
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)--the lone member of Congress to vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was used to justify the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, which caused more than 241,000 deaths, displaced over 5.3 million Afghans, and cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.26 trillion--reiterated earlier this week that there "will never be a U.S. military solution in Afghanistan."
Anti-war groups have argued this week that the predictable and rapid collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government provides further evidence that diplomacy, not endless war promoted by profiteering defense contractors and other beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex, is the only way to achieve lasting peace.
Biden has received praise from progressives for engaging in diplomacy with the emerging Taliban government and for not reneging on his commitment to remove the U.S. military from Afghanistan following the failures of the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations to do so--though Biden said on Wednesday that some troops will remain in the Central Asian nation until all U.S. citizens are evacuated, even if that means staying past the August 31 withdrawal deadline.
The coalition on Thursday argued that the Biden administration must do more to protect the well-being of "Afghans at risk from Taliban repression [who] are attempting to leave the country in desperation."
\u201cAmidst a humanitarian crisis, we banded together to reach 100,000 signatures on our @MoveOn petition demanding President Biden keep the Kabul airport open and accessible. Make your voice heard now.\n\n#EvacuateAfghans \n\nhttps://t.co/tLloECJhvX\u201d— Afghans For A Better Tomorrow (@Afghans For A Better Tomorrow) 1629495594
The letter echoed recent demands made by progressive lawmakers and human rights advocates, who say the least the U.S. could do after its 2001 invasion and 20 years of lie-filled occupation is welcome as many Afghan refugees as possible.
"The Biden administration should announce a bold open-door Afghan refugee policy, welcoming any Afghan seeking refuge and safe haven."
"Given the two decades of U.S. involvement in this devastating conflict," the coalition wrote, "the United States' moral obligations do not end with its exit from the military theater in Afghanistan. After pursuing 20 years of failed policies that have done incredible harm to Afghans, the United States and its NATO allies have a responsibility to accept every Afghan seeking refuge."
The letter states that "the United States' first and foremost priority should be the protection and safety of the airport in Kabul, allowing it to remain operational and working so military and commercial flights can operate so at-risk, vulnerable Afghans can escape the cruelty of the Taliban's rule."
"Secondly," the groups wrote, "the Biden administration should announce a bold open-door Afghan refugee policy, welcoming any Afghan seeking refuge and safe haven. It should also push for neighboring countries to take in any Afghans that seek to transit there as well as push for the international community to drop its visa requirements on Afghan nationals, something that is currently restricting freedom of movement."
"Due to the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO allies should charter flights for all vulnerable groups who seek asylum and refuge in the United States or beyond," the coalition added. "If they do not reach safety, many of these Afghans will be lashed, repressed, or killed."
The letter continues:
To further facilitate the urgent need to provide a safe haven to Afghans in danger, the Biden administration should increase refugee quotas for Afghanistan, as well as expedite processing for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) and Priority 1, 2, and 3 (P1, P2, and P3) applicants. Further, any Afghan currently in the United States must immediately be given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to avert any threat of deportation to a crisis.
To effectively evacuate Afghans who are at risk, it is also vital to increase the capacity of NGOs operating in Afghanistan that make referrals for the P2 program. The United States should also broaden the scope of the P2 program to include vulnerable Afghans--especially women and girls, human rights defenders and activists, anti-corruption actors from civil society, the LGBTQI+ community, people with disabilities, and ethnic and religious minorities--who have not yet been direct recipients of aid or protection. For many Afghans who don't qualify for these programs, humanitarian parole and family reunification applications should be expedited and prioritized for processing.
"Finally," the coalition said, "the United States must provide a generous emergency humanitarian aid package that can meet the basic needs of millions of Afghans who will rely on the U.S. and the international community to ensure they do not starve."
\u201c"After pursuing 20 years of failed policies that have done incredible harm to Afghans, the United States and its NATO allies have a responsibility to accept every Afghan seeking refuge."\n\nICYMI: we're proud to join onto this letter led by @AfghansTomorrow! https://t.co/5LcMVoa9Bd\u201d— Win Without War (@Win Without War) 1629493925
Thousands of veterans as well as a majority of U.S. voters support Biden's decision to end the war in Afghanistan. Recent criticisms of the fallout coming from the corporate media and political elites are not motivated by a "concern for the plight of Afghans," journalist Jack Mirkinson argued earlier this week. "This is about American humiliation, and a fundamental unwillingness to grapple with the truth about what the U.S. and its allies have been doing in Afghanistan since 2001."
On Friday afternoon, Biden claimed that the U.S. is making "significant progress" on the evacuation front, and that flights from Kabul have resumed following a "pause."
"The administration must secure the airport and evacuate the most vulnerable Afghans, get more people on every plane, do it faster, and spend however much time it takes."
--Paul O'Brien, Amnesty
"Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home," said Biden. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, reportedly told House lawmakers less than an hour later that the Taliban have harassed and beaten some U.S. citizens in Kabul.
The president added that "we're going to do everything, everything that we can, to provide safe evacuation for our Afghan allies, partners, and Afghans who might be targeted because of their association with the United States. The United States stands by the commitment it made to these people."
In response to Biden's speech on Friday, Paul O'Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA, issued a statement condemning Biden for failing to adequately reassure Afghans susceptible to retaliation from the Taliban.
"Vulnerable Afghans at risk were looking for reassurance from President Biden. They didn't get it," said O'Brien. "They want to know that they'll be processed for departure regardless of their eligibility for narrow and complicated visa programs. They want to know that they'll be able to reach the airport in safety. They want to know that the U.S. will keep running evacuations until they and their family have had a chance to flee from harm's way."
"President Biden could have used his speech to reassure them, but he didn't," O'Brien added. "Amnesty International USA is going to keep pressing the White House until we get the right answer. The administration must secure the airport and evacuate the most vulnerable Afghans, get more people on every plane, do it faster, and spend however much time it takes."
Foreign Policy for America also released a statement calling on U.S. officials "to do more to save lives that today hang in the balance."
The organization urged the Biden administration to make "a bold commitment to resettle in the U.S. not only Afghans who worked closely with the U.S. government and its implementing partners, but at least 200,000 Afghans at risk of violence or persecution."
"We also call on the United States to work with our G7 partners to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Afghans, particularly women and girls, through the United Nations and trusted partner NGOs, and to use our diplomatic presence in the region to support displaced populations and host communities," the group added.
According to a recent analysis by Lindsay Koshgarian of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, the U.S. could cover initial resettlement costs for 1.2 million refugees with the $18.6 billion the Pentagon budgeted for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan in 2020 alone.
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