With Afghans who helped the U.S. facing the possibility of being trapped in their country now under Taliban rule, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in a Sunday interview said Presidents Joe Biden, Donald Trump and even Barack Obama share some of the blame for slow-walking issuing the visas they need to leave.
Kinzinger is a military pilot who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been among the Democrats and Republicans who urged the Biden White House to — before the U.S. troop withdrawal — speed up visas to Afghans and their families who put their lives at risk to assist the U.S. military.
Now these Afghans who helped the U.S. — serving in roles such as translators — are finding it extremely difficult and dangerous to flee from the Taliban, who quickly seized control, stunning and surprising the Biden administration. At issue are delays in getting the Afghans what are called Special Immigrant Visas.
In a CNN interview, Kinzinger was asked by anchor Brianna Keilar if Biden was “fulfilling his promise of evacuating the Afghans who helped Americans.”
“Look, I certainly think he’s trying. I’m not going to say that President Biden, at this moment, wants to do anything but that. I think the execution has been extremely disastrous,” Kinzinger said.
“But I also think you have to go back not just early in this administration, but especially the last administration, and, frankly, even President Obama’s, and say, why was this Afghan SIV issue, the Special Immigrant Visas, processed so slowly? I have been working on this since I have been in Congress, by the way.
“We could have worked this. There have been people sitting in Afghanistan for five years that were maybe waiting on just one piece” of needed documentation. Kinzinger criticized Trump anti-immigrant adviser, Stephen Miller, for slowing down the process and blocking raising the cap on visas to admit more Afghans to the U.S.
Said Kinzinger, “If we fail to follow through on our commitment to these Afghans, that’s going to put our serious national security at risk, if we fail to follow through with their well-being when they’re here.”
On Sunday, Kinzinger also announced via an email that he raised nearly $100,000 for an “Afghan Ally Relief Fund” he organized through his Country First/Future First political action committee.
More Illinois react
Last week, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was in Albania for two days. Albania is one of the nations accepting Afghan refugees for temporary stays until they get their U.S. visas.
Quigley was intending to greet Afghani refugees landing in Albania but did not after their flights never arrived.
Quigley said in a statement, the U.S. is “grateful” to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, “for leading the initiative to welcome Afghans into their nation. Having spent the past two days in their country, I am inspired by the Albanian people and their willingness to provide shelter to those in need.
“..The United States has a moral obligation to welcome Afghans who assisted US forces over the past two decades and who now face significant risk under Taliban rule. I am incredibly grateful to our partners and allies, like Albania, who have opened their doors to temporarily welcome refugees as we undertake this effort.
“….After twenty years in their country, we owe the people of Afghanistan an expeditious departure and safe harbor on our shores,” Quigley said.
The senators from Illinois, Democrats Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, joined with a group of GOP and Democratic colleagues calling on the Biden White House to step up the “urgent evacuation” of Afghans and to speed up processing Special Immigrant Visa applications.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who visited Afghanistan three times since the U.S. troops were deployed there in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, joined a group of House Democrats who wrote Biden saying he has a “moral obligation” to figure out how to evacuate the Afghans who had partnered with the U.S. She was joined in the letter by Illinois House Democrats Sean Casten, Marie Newman, Bill Foster and Brad Schneider.
Durbin and Duckworth also called on Biden to do more to secure the release of a Lombard man, Mark Frerichs, the Navy veteran working as a civil engineer in Kabul who was kidnapped by the Taliban last year.
In Sunday remarks from the White House, Biden noted that no plane taking off from Kabul with Afghan refugees is landing in the U.S.
Rather, the planes — some military, some charter flights — are being directed to other nations, where the Afghans who helped the U.S. war efforts for the past 20 years wait to be screened and cleared for entry to the U.S.