Waltz and other lawmakers have repeatedly urged Biden to order the Pentagon to immediately evacuate Afghans to places such as Guam, the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, where they can safely complete the paperwork to secure their visas. It takes the State Department more than 800 days on average to process a single visa – much longer than the less than 100 days left before the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan.
“I want the hair of the White House to be on fire,” Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “I want them to do everything in their power to solve this problem.”
“I’m not criticizing the administration, but I just think it’s time to step up the game,” King added.
A State Department spokesperson, speaking in the background to discuss a sensitive topic, stressed in a statement that while the United States withdraws its military forces from Afghanistan, it is not completely leaving the country.
“As US troops leave by September, the US will maintain a strong diplomatic presence through the US Embassy, and our consular section teams in Kabul and Washington will continue to process qualified applicants. [special immigrant visa] requests as quickly as possible, insofar as the security and health situation in Kabul permits, “the spokesperson said.
King suggested detailing Department of Defense staff at the State Department to help process visas faster, as well as asking NATO allies to help find a place to temporarily house the Afghans while ‘they are waiting for their visas to be approved.
But the visa process has slowed further in recent days, after the United States Embassy in Kabul suspended visa operations on Sunday in response to an increase in Covid-19 cases across the country. The State Department spokesman said all affected appointments would be rescheduled “as quickly as possible.”
But lawmakers have said the administration must act now to bring the claimants to safety as they are threatened by the Taliban. Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) And Waltz, both of whom are veterans who spent time in Afghanistan, told stories about Afghans they knew who were murdered by the Taliban for helping Americans .
“These Afghans will have a target in the back as soon as we leave the country,” said Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House foreign affairs committee. “If President Biden abandons them, he signs their death warrants.
Crow led lawmakers to send letters directly to Biden urging him to resolve the issue. But the administration is slow to react.
“Make no mistake, there is a moral imperative at play here. The American handshake has to mean something, “Crow said, urging the president” to do the right thing and evacuate those who have supported us risking their lives. “