A bipartisan group of more than 50 senators is calling on President Biden to immediately evacuate Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families as Afghanistan falls further into chaos following the country’s rapid takeover by Taliban insurgents.
“Specifically, we urge continued coordination between the Departments of State and Defense to secure and hold Hamid Karzai International Airport, including to allow for the continuation of military flights and the resumption of commercial and charter flights,” the senators, led by Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, wrote in a letter obtained by Fox News.
“We also urge your administration to assist with the passage of individuals to the airport to safety – both those within Kabul and those outside of the capital – as well as to consider cases where Afghans fleeing quickly may not have been able to collect or gather appropriate documents,” the letter states.
The letter comes as thousands of Americans and vulnerable Afghans remain stranded in the country since its collapse, with U.S. troops and diplomats scrambling to get them on flights out of the airport in Kabul, which is surrounded by Taliban militants trying to block access.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News Tuesday that President Biden’s hasty withdrawal strategy has left as many as 15,000 Americans outside Kabul with limited transportation resources to reach the airport.
Afghan women, activists and those who worked with the U.S. military are also appealing to the Biden administration to speed up the process for accepting SIV applicants.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that evacuations would continue “until the clock runs out or we run out of capability,” but that the U.S. did not “have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people,” including Americans, who may be stranded outside Kabul.
In their letter Thursday, the senators also called for the “immediate and full implementation” of recently-passed legislation amending the process and eligibility for the SIV program and for the urgent evacuation of SIV applicants “whose service to the U.S. mission has put their lives in jeopardy.”
“As you know, this critical program provides safety for the brave Afghans who served alongside United States troops in support of the U.S. missions in Afghanistan,” they wrote.
“As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, these individuals face increased danger at the hands of the Taliban that has sworn retribution. For this reason, Congress provided additional authorities to improve and expedite the application process while maintaining the program’s security and integrity. We implore your administration to expeditiously implement these changes and immediately evacuate our Afghan allies to safety.”