Blinken says administration is ‘considering every option’ to help Afghans who helped US but lawmakers are ‘disappointed’


The top US diplomat told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that steps the administration is considering include asking Congress to increase the number of visas for these Afghans and the possibility of humanitarian parole – a position that allows those seeking asylum. those who are in immediate danger. US

“We are looking at every option,” the top US diplomat said.

But Blinken did not give a direct answer when lawmakers pressed him on the need to consider deporting thousands of Afghans waiting for special immigrant visas to a third country where they could be safe as they waited for visas. .

Texas Congressman Mike McCall, the Republican leading the committee, called on the Biden administration to remove anyone in Afghanistan who has reached a “critical stage” in the verification process for special immigrant visas for a third country, while They await approval, and they pressed Blinken for details about how the administration is dealing with the challenge as the US troop withdrawal deadline of September 11 is only a few months away.

‘disappoint’

“Mr. Secretary, the clock is ticking, and the Taliban are on the march. And so I am asking this administration to remove anyone who has reached a critical stage in the security investigation process so that they may not enter a third country. Get the job done. Visa processing before the US completes its military retrograde. The time for promises and vague promises is over,” McCall told Blinken. “We need action, and we need it tomorrow.”

After their exchange, McCall tweeted that he was “disappointed” Blinken’s lack of direct response to the evacuation of Afghans “who risked their lives to help us.” McCall noted that the Pentagon has said it is developing an evacuation plan. “The state department should tell Congress where they can be taken,” he said.

Advocates urging the administration to speed up the process say the commitments Blinken made are not enough.

Group No. One president James Mirvaldis said, “Processing 1,000 SIVs a month doesn’t even bring administrators close to rolling them all out by September. At that pace it would still take a year and a half to process the full backlog.” ” Left Behind, which describes itself as an all-volunteer organization working to support special immigrant visa recipients.

Taliban kept out statement monday It said Afghans working with US and international forces should “show remorse” and “not engage” in these actions in the future and that the Taliban will not go after them. But Afghans who are queuing up for special immigrant visas do not believe there is any reason to believe the Taliban, who have been carrying out violent attacks on these Afghans in recent months.

At the Pentagon, General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of the US Central Command that oversees the Middle East region, told reporters during a phone briefing on Monday that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is “nearly half finished.”

“We are on pace, and it continues very smoothly,” McKenzie said. Asked whether there is a point at which the military needs to take a decision to start evacuating Afghan visa applicants or whether it can do so after September, he said: “Whatever orders we will be given, We’ll have the ability to follow that. Obviously it’s easier sometimes than others, but the United States military has remarkable capabilities for these kinds of things. We’re going to do whatever is necessary, Whenever necessary, we can.”

Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the State Department had added 50 people to deal with the backlog in processing applicants for special immigrant visas. a report Last year from the State Department’s Office of Inspector General.

He also said that the administration had an allocation of 26,000 visas and has used 15,000, leaving it with 11,000 visas to accommodate 18,000 applicants.

“We are seeking your support to add 8,000 to our range so we can accommodate all of us, and we can get back to you if we need more,” Blinken said.

As lawmakers worried about the fate of Afghan interpreters and others assisting the US, Blinken said violence against special immigrant visa seekers could not escalate immediately after US troops left the country and argued. Given that the US would still have significant gains.

‘Afghanistan will not back down’

“Even as we withdraw our forces, we are not withdrawing from Afghanistan,” Blinken told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday afternoon. “We are determined to maintain a strong embassy presence, programs to support Afghanistan, its people and its government, economic development, humanitarian, security forces. All this will remain. We will work with other partners to ensure this. Working together that they stay together, and that we remain deeply engaged in supporting the government, supporting the people.”

“And whatever happens in Afghanistan, if there is a significant drop in security, it may well happen, we discussed it earlier, I don’t think it will be something that happens from Friday to Monday. ,” Blinken said. The Appropriations Subcommittee, “I therefore do not necessarily equate the departure of our forces with any immediate deterioration in the situation in July, August or early September.”

CNN’s Ellie Kaufman and Corey James contributed to this report.

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