US coalition urges Biden to lend more support to rescuing Afghans left behind

Veterans' groups and civilians sent a letter to president asking for more support

US Air Force staff load passengers aboard an evacuation flight in Kabul on August 14. Reuters
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Working tirelessly since August when the US withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, Americans from all walks of life – politicians, aid workers, veterans – rushed to help their Afghan allies flee the falling country.

Three and half months later, with the lives of thousands of Afghans in the balance, a coalition of more than 100 veterans' groups and civilians is calling on US President Joe Biden for more support.

The group known as #AfghanEvac sent a letter to Mr Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell asking for more help.

“The sheer volume and complexity of this crisis, however, renders our work untenable without increasing the formal support of the US government,” the letter said.

The group outlined 15 steps the government should take to meet its commitment to the Afghans who helped them over the course of the 20-year conflict.

In the outline, the group urges the Biden administration to appoint a leader with a dedicated staff responsible for interagency co-ordination and creating a multi-year plan for removing vulnerable Afghans.

The group also wants the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to expedite visa processing for Afghans eligible for special immigrant visas.

It wants the departments to provide more mental health support for Afghans who have made it to the US or are on US bases abroad, and for the veterans and volunteers who have been involved with the evacuation efforts.

Shawn VanDiver, a US Navy veteran and founder of #AfghanEvac, said the letter should not “be misconstrued as a negative lens” of the group's work with the US government over the past three months, but a reflection of just how much work there is still to do.

"Now is not the time to retreat to predictable partisan corners,” the letter said. “This is a time to stand together, united in our shared belief that the promise of America remains worth preserving.

"The Afghans who stood alongside our troops, diplomats and other American interests in Afghanistan have been, and will forever remain, welcome in our communities."

Mr VanDiver said veterans' groups would continue to pressure Washington to step up.

“Those who try to retreat to partisan corners will find themselves under the ire of veterans' groups who are trying to make sure we get this thing done,” he told The National.

Updated: December 01, 2021, 11:38 PM