WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Biden administration must act urgently to protect Afghan nationals who have worked alongside the U.S. military and government, speakers said on a press call today.
The call, co-hosted by the Forum and Upwardly Global, included a national security expert and Afghanistan veteran, and two Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients who have resettled in the U.S.
Their stories highlight the need for an evacuation plan for Afghans, including SIV applicants and others who are eligible, who have assisted the U.S. in matters military and civilian. The withdrawal of U.S. troops is scheduled to be complete by September and could finish as early as July.
The following are quotes from speakers on today’s call:
Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, Former Director, Office of Combating Terrorism, National Security Council Staff under President George W. Bush; U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and Afghanistan veteran:
“The Biden administration needs to roll out and begin implementing a plan to protect our Afghan allies right away. We are looking for them to produce a strategy. As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, I know how critical Afghan nationals were and are as allies and partners. As a counterterrorism expert, I understand what’s at stake if we fail to live up to our promises.”
Abdul, Afghan SIV recipient resettled in Virginia:
“I worked on a project that cultivated the culture of social interaction using a digital platform, especially among women, boys and girls. These kinds of projects gave me, and many people, a lot of hope. But insurgent groups did not want these projects to succeed. … We need to protect and support the thousands of people who worked shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers and also on civilian projects and are still waiting for their visas. Those who are still in Afghanistan and are waiting for their cases to be processed — I know how difficult it is for them. Especially now, with U.S. troops withdrawing, anxiety has increased.”
Seeta, Afghan SIV recipient resettled in Tennessee:
“As a journalist in Afghanistan, I shared the positive impacts of the U.S. presence there. My reporting made me a target of the Taliban. They threatened to kill me and my father. I had to move several times inside Afghanistan, and at one point I wore a burqa for my own safety. Still I continued to work until the threat to our safety and lives became too great. I know the risk is very high for people like me who have worked to support U.S. government. It’s very important that the U.S. government protect these people too.”
Jennie Murray, Vice President of Programs, Upwardly Global:
“SIV recipients are heroes, having served shoulder to shoulder with U.S. troops in conflict and supported our allied efforts on civilian projects in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It is our honor as an organization to be able to support these professionals as they rebuild lives and careers in the U.S.”
Dan Gordon, Vice President of Strategic Communications, National Immigration Forum:
“The threat to the lives of our Afghan allies and their families is real, and the clock is ticking. The president should commit to and immediately begin to implement a plan to evacuate people who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas. Keeping our promise to those who helped us also offers the president an opportunity to act on something with strong bipartisan support, in Congress and beyond.”