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Emmer Urges Biden to Get Afghan Interpreters Out Of Harm’s Way

July 15, 2021 by Daniel Mollenkamp
Supporters of the Taliban carry the Taliban's signature white flags in the Afghan-Pakistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. The Taliban are pressing on with their surge in Afghanistan, saying Wednesday that they seized Spin Boldaka, a strategic border crossing with Pakistan — the latest in a series of key border post to come under their control in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Tariq Achkzai)

WASHINGTON- A letter from Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., to President Joe Biden this week urged the administration for firm plans to safeguard Afghans who worked with American troops during the War on Terror.

As American troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan observers fear that Afghans who worked as interpreters and translators for American forces during the 20-year-long incursion now face retaliation and death at the hands of the Taliban.

Congress has warned that the process for evacuating them, the Afghan Special Immigrant Visas Program, created in 2009 under the Afghan Allies Protection Act, is severely backlogged. Although the program authorized visas for Afghans who assisted in the War on Terror, it has been described as “plagued by delays.” 

Materials from Emmer’s office said nearly 18,000 applicants under the program are stuck in the backlog, and another 5,000 are waiting for the process to even begin.

Last month, a bipartisan bill to speed up the SIV process by temporarily delaying a medical exam requirement that is blamed for some of the delays passed the House.

“Make no mistake: the world is watching our withdrawal and whether we help those who helped us,” an editorial from the sponsors of the House bill said. “If we fail to protect our current partners, it will be hard to find future ones.”

During a press conference last week, the president said his administration would begin to relocate at-risk Afghans and their families “who chose to leave” sometime this month.

“There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us,” President Biden said, also commenting that the administration had already approved 2,500 SIVs.

Emmer’s letter implied that the president has yet to back up that talk with a definite plan to remove America’s former partners from harm’s way.

A bipartisan consensus exists to evacuate these allies, but the administration has not said which Afghan partners will qualify for withdrawal, where they will be evacuated to, or who will lead the on-ground evacuations, according to Emmer.

“I have personally heard from families in my own district who have relatives in this backlog,” Emmer said. 

“For two grueling decades, many Afghan interpreters and translators have worked tirelessly with American forces to further our mission in the Middle East, despite the inherent dangers,” the letter said, later adding, “Now let us help them to find better lives.”

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