55 bipartisan senators call on Biden to 'immediately evacuate' Afghans who helped US

A bipartisan group of 55 senators is calling on President BidenJoe BidenJan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE to “immediately evacuate” Afghans who helped the U.S. during its military involvement in the country as the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate.

The group, led by Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrat Mike Franken launches challenge to Grassley in Iowa Trump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog MORE (R-Iowa) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Lawmakers call for more resources to support early cancer detection MORE (D-N.H.), penned a letter to Biden on Wednesday asking the administration to quickly pull Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) from the country, along with their families.

SIVs are granted to Afghan individuals who were employed by or worked on behalf of the U.S. government during America’s operations in Afghanistan.

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The senators also urged Biden to “expeditiously implement” tenets of the Afghan Allies Protection Act, which Biden signed into law last month. It calls for adding an additional 8,000 visas to the SIV program and removing a number of hurdles that made it difficult for those eligible to receive a visa.

“We write to urge the immediate and full implementation of recently-passed legislation amending the process and eligibility for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and for the urgent evacuation of SIV applicants whose service to the U.S. mission has put their lives in jeopardy,” the senators wrote in the letter.

“We implore your Administration to expeditiously implement these changes and immediately evacuate our Afghan allies to safety,” they added.

The senators also called for the “continued coordination” between the departments of State and Defense over efforts to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, which is the main hub where the U.S. military has been evacuating individuals from.

They urged the administration to help ensure that individuals are transported to the airport safely and to consider evacuating Afghan citizens who are eligible for SIVs but do not have their paperwork with them because they fled too quickly.

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Those pleas came on the same day the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan said it "cannot guarantee safe passage” to the Kabul airport, which was a reversal from previous assurances that government officials had a commitment from the Taliban to not obstruct the evacuation efforts.

The senators continued, writing that it should be a “top priority” of the administration to help Afghans who put themselves in danger to assist the U.S. government.

“With the departure of U.S. forces and Taliban rule in place, the safety and security of our Afghan allies who put their lives on the line to help our service members and diplomats must be a top priority,” the letter reads.

“The Taliban’s rapid ascendancy across Afghanistan and takeover of Kabul should not cause us to break our promise to the Afghans who helped us operate over the past twenty years and are counting on us for assistance. American inaction would ensure they become refugees or prime targets for Taliban retribution,” it adds.

The bipartisan push comes amid chaos in Afghanistan as U.S. and Afghan citizens scramble to evacuate as the Taliban’s grip on the country tightens.

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The insurgent group seized Kabul on Sunday, leading Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee the nation and effectively toppling the existing government.

Ghani said he left to avoid clashes with the Taliban and to prevent future bloodshed. He and his family are now in the United Arab Emirates "on humanitarian grounds."

The Taliban declared the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on Thursday, effectively cementing its rule in the country.

While the group has said it plans to govern peacefully, many are nonetheless concerned with how it will rule when it comes to women in particular.

The U.S. has evacuated 7,000 people from Afghanistan since Saturday, according to a U.S. official on Thursday.