A Republican congressman and former Green Beret implored President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE on Wednesday to immediately order the evacuation of Afghans who helped U.S. troops, saying “blood will be on his hands” if he does not.
“If he doesn't act, and he doesn't get these people out, blood will be on his hands and on his administration's hands,” Rep. Michael WaltzMichael WaltzGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan MORE (R-Fla.) said at a news conference. “The time for talk, the time for debate is over.”
Waltz’s fiery comments up the rhetoric as lawmakers in both parties increasingly pressure the Biden administration to order an evacuation for Afghan interpreters and their families as the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan progresses. On Tuesday, Sen. Angus KingAngus KingState Department spokesperson tests positive for COVID-19 North Dakota Republican latest House breakthrough COVID-19 case Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case MORE (I-Maine) said the White House should have its “hair on fire” over the issue.
At the heart of the issue is the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghans who worked for U.S. troops. The program has been plagued with years-long delays and faces a backlog of thousands of applicants.
The Biden administration has said it is accelerating processing the applications, but lawmakers have warned there is not enough time before all U.S. troops withdraw, leaving Afghans who helped the United States at risk of being hunted down and murdered.
Lawmakers and others have been urging the administration to evacuate those at-risk Afghans to Guam or another safe location while they wait for the applications to be processed.
Waltz was speaking at a news conference alongside members of the American Legion and Rep. Jason CrowJason CrowOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates Bipartisan momentum builds for war on terror memorial Democrats face full legislative plate and rising tensions MORE (D-Colo.), all amplifying the call for an evacuation.
“I think the most practical thing is to evacuate pending applicants to Guam,” Crow said. “We have a history of doing it. We don’t have to reinvent that wheel.”
The United States used Guam as a way station in 1975 while it processed Vietnamese refugees it evacuated amid the fall of Saigon.
Crow, a former Army Ranger, previously introduced legislation with Rep. Brad WenstrupBrad Robert Wenstrup20 years later: Washington policymakers remember 9/11 House approves select panel to probe Jan. 6 attack Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation MORE (R-Ohio) that seeks to speed SIV processing by waiving the requirement for applicants to undergo a medical exam while in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers will introduce another package of bills, collectively dubbed the ALLIES Act, on Thursday to add visas to the program and speed up the process, Crow said. Asked for more information on the package, Crow's office said it “removes some of the burdensome application requirements and increases the visa cap.”
Waltz said he thinks the White House has a “false notion” that there will be more time to process visa applications after U.S. troops leave.
“That’s my fear that there’s belief in the White House that American soldiers can leave, we can shut down airbases and then we can continue to process paperwork,” he said. “I think that’s a death sentence for these poor people.”