Merkley, Colleagues Ask President Biden To Assist In Evacuating High-Risk Afghan Partners

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is working alongside nine members of the U.S House of Representatives to ask President Biden to assist in evacuating high-risk Afghan partners in collaboration with NGOs.

Specifically, the lawmakers requested in a letter to President Biden that the administration ensure the evacuation of allscreened, vetted and eligible individuals currently located at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), and that the remaining Afghan partners at most acute risk be evacuated through all available means.

“We are grateful that you have repeatedly and consistently committed to fulfilling America’s sacred promise to evacuate SIV applicants and other Afghan partners who are at risk due to their service to the U.S. Government or their work to advance democracy, women’s rights, or rule-of-law over the past two decades,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Recognizing the urgency of safely evacuating all remaining diplomatic, military, and other USG personnel, it is imperative that we keep our commitments to all those who have made the difficult journey into HKIA and are now one step removed from safety,” they continued. “Our NGO partners on the ground are positioned to immediately help save hundreds of the most threatened Afghans by means of a convoy planned and executed in the next 24-48 hours.”

In addition to Merkley, the letter was signed by Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO-6), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-7), Andy Kim (D-NJ-3), Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10), Juan Vargas (D-CA-51), Katie, Porter (D-CA-45), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Scott Peters (D-CA-52), and Peter Welch (D-VA).

See the full text of the letter is below.

Dear President Biden,

We write with concern regarding the many Afghans who remain in-country and whose lives are at imminent and grave risk as a consequence of their partnership with the United States.

We are grateful that you have repeatedly and consistently committed to fulfilling America’s sacred promise to evacuate SIV applicants and other Afghan partners who are at risk due to their service to the U.S. Government or their work to advance democracy, women’s rights, or rule-of-law over the past two decades. We could not agree more with your recent statement that “The United States stands by its commitment that we’ve made to these people, and it includes other vulnerable Afghans, such as women leaders and journalists.” America has a moral obligation to ensure the safe, secure, and humane passage to a new home, and to welcome these friends and partners with open arms.

While recognizing that evolving security risks necessitate prioritizing force protection, it is in the spirit of those commitments that we make the following requests:

  1. We request your assurance that all screened, vetted and eligible individuals currently located on  HKIA will be evacuated.

Recognizing the urgency of safely evacuating all remaining diplomatic, military, and other USG personnel, it is imperative that we keep our commitments to all those who have made the difficult journey into HKIA and are now one step removed from safety. 

  1. We request that you evacuate remaining Afghan partners who are at the most acute risk, through all available means.

We continue to offer our unqualified support in this effort. Our NGO partners on the ground are positioned to immediately help save hundreds of the most threatened Afghans by means of a convoy planned and executed in the next 24-48 hours.

The NGOs standing by to conduct this transportation are longtime partner organizations with current capability on the ground. They have all already collected relevant biodata, screened for the most urgent cases, and shown an ability to coordinate with USG operations inside HKIA (and elsewhere in the country). These organizations will coordinate the convoy buses and have developed a manifest of vetted individuals who require immediate evacuation, based on consultations with longtime trusted partners, including certain USG government agencies and offices. These organizations also have recent experience working with the USG on HKIA convoys, including an understanding of the security risks and perimeter protocols.

The organizations in question are prepared to adjust lists and operations to fit the priorities and operational needs of the U.S. mission. Their combined list comprises a broad range of individuals who have worked in many different sectors supported by the United States over the last 20 years, including investigative journalists, women’s rights activists, democracy workers, former Afghan government officials, human rights defenders, and judges, and other people who have been critical partners in the pursuit of democracy and freedom in Afghanistan. Over the last two decades, these are the Afghan friends, allies, and partners we in Congress have sought to support. 

It is our understanding that everyone on these convoys will have appropriate paperwork and documentation – either to come to the United States under P1, P2, or Parole eligibility or to go to other countries, with required visas and documentation. Potential convoy participants are aware of the serious risk that could be incurred by participating in this effort but have taken the individual decision that the opportunity to leave the country, under the initial umbrella of the U.S.  evacuation operation, presents less of a risk than remaining in Afghanistan under the Taliban. We believe that as a consequence of their partnership with the United States, their lives are now at grave and immediate risk.

Thank you for your life-saving efforts to date to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan. We appreciate your immediate and urgent attention to this request and look forward to working closely with you to ensure the safety and protection of these at-risk Afghans.

Sincerely,

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