US veterans urge State Department to save Afghans from Taliban

Veterans of the US military and members of aid groups met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday to push authorities to work faster to help Afghans escape the Taliban.

Mr Blinken thanked representatives of #AfghanEvac, a coalition of more than 100 groups made up of veterans, social workers, lawyers and advocates, for their efforts to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety.

“It was a good conversation. He listened to our concerns, ”said Camille Mackler, who attended the virtual meeting.

Ms. Mackler is the executive director of Immigrant Arc, an organization that provides legal services to immigrants to New York City, and is also a member of the Truman Center, a Washington-based think tank that has worked closely with groups to bring out the people of Afghanistan.

“We had submitted questions beforehand and he had thought about the answers and prepared to give us not sound bites, but answers.”

She added, however, that while the meeting was productive, the State Department must do more to expedite and expand processing of special immigrant visas (SIVs).

Afghans eligible to receive SIV assisted US forces during the 20-year war in the country.

“The US immigration legal system, our migration policies and our migration legal structure are not set up to deal with a humanitarian crisis like this and have failed completely for the Afghan people,” Ms. Mackler said. . The National.

From August 14 to 30, the United States successfully deported more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan in the largest airlift operation in US history.

But many were left behind, and veterans and civilians struggled to find other ways to bring people to safety.

Since August 31, the United States has aided or assisted in the removal of 435 U.S. citizens and 325 lawful permanent residents.

“All American citizens who have requested the assistance of the United States government to leave Afghanistan and are ready to do so have been offered the opportunity to leave the country,” the State Department spokesman said, Ned Price.

Last week, a group of bipartisan senators signed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the State Department, Homeland Security and other federal agencies to speed up processing times for recipients of SIV.

All of this comes as winter descends on Afghanistan, where an estimated nine million people are at risk of starvation and an additional 14.1 million face severe food shortages, the UN reported.

All of this adds increased urgency to the work of aid groups and veterans who continue to seek ways to help people escape the Taliban.

Update: November 16, 2021, 4:22 p.m.

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