In a statement, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) president Krish O’Mara Vignarajah called the Biden administration’s announcement “a vital step forward in honoring the promise we made to Afghan allies who faithfully served our mission. The danger that they and their families face as a result of their service cannot be overstated. We are eager to see this long-overdue evacuation operationalized in a meaningful way.”
“Unfortunately, there are still far too many questions left unanswered, including who exactly and how many people are eligible for evacuation,” she continued. “With partners estimating that 49% of those at risk reside outside of Kabul, how will those outside the capital access safety? And to what countries will they be evacuated? We have serious concerns about the protection of our allies’ human rights in countries that have been rumored as potential partners in this effort.”
As O’Mara Vignarajah noted, it remains very unclear where exactly Afghan allies and their families will go while they wait for visa processing.
U.S. military bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were reported as possibilities earlier this month, and Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikista more recently. During an address last week, President Biden said Operation Allies Refuge “has identified U.S. facilities outside of the continental United States, as well as in third countries, to host our Afghan allies.” Refugee advocates have called on the president to place allies and their families in Guam, which has said its ready to assist, MSNBC reported.
During his address last week, the president said our nation’s message to allies and their families was that “[t]here 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.” They deserve safety here for all their sacrifice, and as soon as possible. U.S. organizations already have a history of assisting Afghan allies: in just one example, Prism recently reported on Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, Connecticut. The organization helped resettle former translator Mohammad Daad Serweri and his family in 2017.
“It was their staff members who welcomed us warmly,” Serweri said in the report. “Before we arrived they had secured housing for us in an apartment with all the furniture and household supplies that we needed.” Serweri assisted U.S. forces for four years, until life there became “untenable,” the report said. “He’d become a target for death threats from people likely associated with the Taliban, who opposed the work of the U.S. Armed Forces.”
“We continue to call for the swift evacuation of Afghan allies to locations that respect basic rights and assure safety for those Afghans who are at risk because they assisted the U.S. mission,” O’Mara Vignarajah continued. “We believe the U.S. territory of Guam offers such assurances, given its history of hosting former evacuations of allies from Vietnam and Iraq. We cannot delegate or outsource our moral and humanitarian obligations when so many lives hang in the balance.”