Shaheen Urges State Department for Clarity on Casework & Processes for Swift Evacuation of Vulnerable Afghans

September 03, 2021

(Manchester, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, sent a letter to the U.S. State Department asking for clarity on its efforts to safely evacuate Afghans now that the U.S. military mission is complete. Specifically, the letter asks for details around how the Department is handling cases it’s received and how they’re supporting those stranded in Afghanistan whose cases have not yet been referred. Shaheen has sent over 2,200 names to State, including Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and Priority 1 and 2 designees, and is urging for details to ensure their safe and timely evacuation.

“My office has submitted over 2,200 names to the Department, many of whom…obtained sufficient documentation but were still unable to evacuate and women and girls who fear retribution from the Taliban for seeking basic human rights,” Shaheen wrote. “Although some individuals have shared the status of their evacuation with my office, I do not have confirmation from many cases that have successfully departed. In addition, I have questions concerning next steps for individuals who remain in Afghanistan and third countries awaiting a path to safety.”

“In light of the United States’ full withdrawal of our military footprint in Afghanistan, I ask for an update not only on the cases provided to the Department, but a better understanding of the process to support those who still remain. It is my intention to continue to provide names of individuals who are left stranded, and I welcome clarity in how the Department intends to follow up with these cases and what opportunities are available to ensure their safe and timely evacuation,” Shaheen continued.

Shaheen has long expressed deep concerns about the United States’ unconditioned withdrawal from Afghanistan. Among these apprehensions is the immediate danger facing Afghan women and other groups vulnerable to the Taliban’s violence and oppression. Senator Shaheen repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government a U.S. foreign policy priority. Senator Shaheen 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. 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.  Earlier this week, Shaheen participated in a live virtual discussion hosted by The Washington Post to discuss the future of Afghan women and girls.

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. The White House signed into law key provisions from the Afghan Allies Protection Act, a bill led by Shaheen and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), as part of spending legislation. Their legislation helps protect the Afghan civilians who risked their lives to support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

You can read the full letter here and below:

Dear Secretary Blinken:

I write to extend my gratitude for the Department of State’s quick efforts to support the safe evacuation of thousands of Afghan allies and partners in such a short period of time. Despite my concerns regarding the circumstances that got us into this situation, I commend our diplomatic corps who stepped up to support this large scale consular crisis.

My constituents in New Hampshire share deep personal connections in the effort to safely evacuate Afghan allies. I have heard from New Hampshire constituents with relatives remaining in Afghanistan; veterans fighting for the lives of their translators who helped ensure their own safety on the battlefield; advocates invested in women’s development who have sought to support Afghan women and girls who now face threats to their livelihood from the Taliban; and businesses and contractors with employees on the ground in support of Afghanistan’s economic and security development who now face an uncertain future.

To that end, my office has submitted over 2,200 names to the Department, many of whom are Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants who have worked with my office for a number of years, Priority 1 and 2 designees who obtained sufficient documentation but were still unable to evacuate and women and girls who fear retribution from the Taliban for seeking basic human rights. Although some individuals have shared the status of their evacuation with my office, I do not have confirmation from many cases that have successfully departed. In addition, I have questions concerning next steps for individuals who remain in Afghanistan and third countries awaiting a path to safety.

In light of the United States’ full withdrawal of our military footprint in Afghanistan, I ask for an update not only on the cases provided to the Department, but a better understanding of the process to support those who still remain. It is my intention to continue to provide names of individuals who are left stranded, and I welcome clarity in how the Department intends to follow up with these cases and what opportunities are available to ensure their safe and timely evacuation.

Thank you to your attention to this matter, and I look forward to hearing back on the Department’s plan to engage with Congress on these cases.

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