As the U.S. military prepares to leave Afghanistan, it’s running out of time to evacuate the Afghans who have helped the United States.
In the past few weeks, the outlook for Afghans who helped the United States in Afghanistan has gone from worrying to critical. As U.S. and NATO troops leave the country with breathtaking speed, the Taliban are attacking districts that had long been in the Afghan government’s hands, setting up checkpoints on major roads, and threatening provincial capitals. Many of the 18,000 Afghans who, along with their families, have applied for Special Immigrant Visas will soon have nowhere to hide, no armed force standing between them and their pursuers.
The unfolding disaster has seized the attention of international organizations, American news outlets, veterans’ groups, and members of Congress. On June 4, a bipartisan coalition of House members (many of them veterans), called the Honoring Our Promises Working Group, released a passionate statement that urged the Biden administration to skip the cumbersome ordeal of reviewing thousands of visa applications and instead evacuate these Afghans and their families to the U.S. territory of Guam, where they can be processed in safety. (The governor of Guam has declared that the island is prepared to accept them.) The Association of Wartime Allies, a veterans’ group, keeps a tracker of how many flights a day will be needed to get these endangered Afghans out if all U.S. forces leave Afghanistan by September 11, as President Joe Biden has promised, or July 4, as now seems a likelier end point. Between this past Tuesday and July 4, 17 flights carrying 3,737 people would have to take off daily. With every passing day, of course, the number of flights goes up, and the logistics get harder.