(Manchester, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, issued the following statement on the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan:
“Over the weekend, the world watched as Kabul fell, with images of Afghan civilians at the airport pleading to be evacuated seared into our minds. Dire conditions on the ground persist today and without swift, decisive action from the administration, Afghan civilians will suffer or die at the hands of the Taliban. To start, our Afghan partners – SIV applicants – who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops on the battlefield must be immediately evacuated to safety – that means waiving parts of the SIV process that can no longer be feasibly conducted in Afghanistan due to the Taliban takeover. The same should be done for Afghans who assisted the U.S. mission through non-governmental organizations and aid agencies, and other vulnerable populations such as journalists, human rights defenders and women leaders. And there must be an immediate expansion of the refugee program for Afghan women seeking asylum, whose lives are in jeopardy as the Taliban resumes control and turns back the clock on 20 years of progress for women’s rights. A failure to act now will seal their fate, and the generation of girls who grew up with freedoms, education and dreams of building their country’s future will die with them,” said Shaheen.
She continued, “I am continuing to monitor the grave developments in Afghanistan and urge the Biden administration to take every step to protect all U.S. citizens. As we continue the evacuation, we cannot forget our Afghan partners and other vulnerable civilians whose lives are in danger, due in part to the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. We know what will happen if we abandon them – we cannot leave them to die.”
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 has repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in ongoing negotiations 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.
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.