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Shaheen Statement on President Biden’s Afghanistan Address

**Shaheen leads bipartisan legislation to improve the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program by increasing the authorized number of Afghan Special Immigrant Visas by 20,000 and streamlining procedures for visa processing**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, issued the following statement after President Joe Biden’s address on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan: 

“I’m very encouraged by President Biden’s efforts to get our Afghan allies out of harm’s way, but I remain deeply concerned by the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan. Sadly, this follows a trajectory that I feared: a resurgence of the Taliban and direct threats to communities vulnerable to their violence and oppression. It is critical that there is a clear plan in place in the days, weeks and months ahead to maintain the progress made to advance women’s rights and to ensure the safety of our allies who risked their lives, and the safety of their families, in support of the U.S. mission,” said Shaheen, who has led a years-long effort in Congress to bolster the Afghan SIV program and continues to lead action in support of Afghan women and girls. “I thank and acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices of U.S. service members and their families, as well as our NATO allies and other partners, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops on the battlefield for two decades. We must ensure their service and sacrifice were not made in vain. As the U.S. withdrawal comes to a close, we cannot let our guard down—we must remain vigilant against the threat posed by the Taliban and terrorist groups, and support a stable and inclusive government in Afghanistan. Failure to do so will turn back the clock on twenty years of progress and jeopardize the safety of Afghan women, girls and other vulnerable groups, and once again put the region at risk for becoming a safe haven for terrorism.”

In April, Shaheen expressed serious concerns for the safety of Afghan women and other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan in response to the Biden administration’s announcement to fully withdraw U.S. forces. Senator Shaheen has repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in ongoing negotiations a U.S. foreign policy priority. Senator Shaheen recently met virtually with women members of Afghanistan’s Parliament to discuss the rights and futures of women and girls in Afghanistan as the United States withdraws. Shaheen also raised her concerns about the safety of women and girls with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing. She recently partnered with humanitarian and filmmaker Angelina Jolie on an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for a meaningful and comprehensive strategy to address the safety and security of women and girls in Afghanistan. During a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan in 2019, Shaheen met with a group of Afghan women who described how dramatically their lives had improved since the Taliban government was toppled nearly two decades ago. Shaheen is the author of the Women, Peace and Security Act, which was signed into law in 2017 and ensures women’s leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations.      

Senator Shaheen historically partnered with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on efforts to protect Afghans who’ve risked their lives to support U.S. diplomatic efforts abroad by strengthening the Afghan SIV program. She continues to lead bipartisan efforts in Congress to reauthorize additional Afghan SIVs. She recently led the bipartisan introduction of legislation to increase the number of authorized visas by 20,000, remove extraneous paperwork requirements and improve the program’s efficiency amid U.S. withdrawal. In the fiscal year 2021 government funding legislation that was signed into law, Senator Shaheen secured an additional 4,000 Afghan SIVs.