Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary, has stated that at least 50,000 Afghan nationals who evacuated following the Taliban takeover would be admitted into the United States. He did not say exactly how many more Afghans will come in the future. The minister stated that America’s commitment to these people is an “enduring one” and that the admission process “is not just a matter of the next several weeks.”
“We have a moral imperative to protect them, to support those who have supported this nation… Our mission is not accomplished until we have safely evacuated all U.S. citizens who wish to leave Afghanistan or lawful permanent residents, all individuals who have assisted the United States in Afghanistan… This effort will not end until we achieve that goal,” Mayorkas told reporters.
Washington evacuated over 130,000 people from the Kabul airport until Aug. 30. Thirteen percent were U.S. citizens and eight percent were lawful permanent residents. The remaining are people with Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) and other Afghans who were deemed to be vulnerable to Taliban rule. Many of the evacuees were flown from Kabul to other nations like Germany, Qatar, Spain, and Kuwait, where they are being vetted and screened for security reasons.
After these Afghans are vetted by government employees, including by the FBI, they are cleared to come to the U.S. Many of them have been landing at the Philadelphia International Airport or the Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Then they are transported to one of the eight military bases in America. As of Sept. 3, around 25,600 Afghans were being housed at such bases. At present, the eight military installations can house 36,000 people. Efforts are going on to expand the capacity to 50,000. Roughly 1,000 Afghans have been resettled from the bases to other parts of the country.
Lawmakers have come forward to show support to the incoming Afghans. In a joint statement, Republicans Doug Ducey and Rusty Bowers noted that Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime have served alongside American military forces. These Afghans worked as interpreters and drivers, for example, “and were instrumental in our nation’s operations and safety of U.S. soldiers.” They criticized the president for the plight of Afghan aides.
“They helped our fight to defeat terrorist organizations and defend human rights, and now their lives are in danger… These refugees are in this position because of President Biden’s negligence and inability to lead. His failure on this issue is a threat not just to the progress done for the people of Afghanistan, but also to the national security of the United States and our allies around the world,” the joint statement said.
People have raised security concerns regarding the influx of Afghan refugees. Republican Tom Tiffany recently visited Fort McCoy, which is housing many Afghans. He said all of them are on parole. Many of them were also being allowed to leave the base.
Tiffany blamed the Biden administration for circumventing the SIV process. In late August, it was reported that Mayorkas was using his powers of parole to let in Afghans who did not possess the SIV visa. He declined to state how many were granted parole.
A few others have raised questions on Washington’s lack of transparency when it comes to evacuees. “The Biden Administration has a moral obligation to give a full accounting: What is the exact number of Americans trapped in Afghanistan? What is the exact number of legal permanent residents? How many SIV allies?” Republican Senator Ben Sasse asked.
Individuals and organizations are trying to help those who wish to leave Afghanistan. A coalition of former military and government officials led by Mary Beth Long, a former minister under the Bush administration, has succeeded in evacuating 300 Americans who were not accounted for by the U.S. government. Some of these efforts are apparently being met with a lukewarm response from Washington.
“America: right now there is a private effort to get a plane of US citizens and allies out of Afghanistan. They need @SecBlinken to help get clearance to land in a nearby country. Biden’s State Department is refusing to actively assist. Their response: ‘just tell them to ask’,” Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, tweeted.