BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on the situation in Afghanistan. He was a cosponsor of the law that enlarged the number of Special Immigrant Visas for translators and others who worked with the American military.
“What is happening in Afghanistan today is tragic. It is a dire humanitarian crisis. The gains we have made throughout the years, particularly regarding the rights of women and children, are going to be lost.
“The U.S. was in Afghanistan for 20 years trying to bolster the elected Afghan government. The withdrawal of our troops was a long time coming and something the American people wanted to see happen. The speed with which the Afghan army collapsed or deserted, after two decades and billions of dollars in training, along with first-rate equipment, has been astonishing and is a deep disappointment.
“Today, our mission is to get U.S. personnel out of the country as quickly and safely as possible. Our primary mission is to protect American citizens. We also are working to evacuate those who risked their lives to help us and the Afghan government. I have urged the Biden administration to find extraordinary ways around the normal bureaucracy to enable more people to leave more quickly.
“President Joe Biden is cleaning up a mess left by three presidents before him. George W. Bush failed to complete the mission in Afghanistan and diverted resources to a new mission in Iraq unrelated to 9/11. President Barack Obama wanted to pull troops out, but couldn’t find a way. President Donald Trump announced a withdrawal, invited the Taliban to Camp David on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary and cut secret deals with them leading directly to what we are seeing in Afghanistan today.
“The Taliban remains a designated-terrorist organization and they are the ones responsible for their murderous actions.”
“The United States can now use any money that was previously going to be spent supporting Afghan security forces to help save Afghan lives. Given the U.S. role in the war in Afghanistan, the United States has a moral responsibility to accept any Afghan seeking refuge that it can. The U.S. government should facilitate evacuation flights for all vulnerable groups in Afghanistan who seek asylum and safe haven in the United States or beyond. All applicants for these visas should be evacuated immediately and not forced to wait in harm’s way while the application process proceeds.
“President Biden should dramatically increase the refugee quota for Afghanistan, and direct the U.S. government to expedite processing of the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) and Priority 2 Refugee Designation (P2) applications. The U.S. government should also expand eligibility and assistance under the P2 program to include women, the LGBTQI+ community, and ethnic and religious minorities, regardless of a previous affiliation with the U.S. government. It could also consider a new category of humanitarian parole to increase the number of people eligible for life-saving immigrations protections in America.”