‘The consequences of not keeping that commitment to them will be dire,’ warns one congressman.
It’s hard to get four out of five Americans to agree on anything, but 81 percent of Americans support bringing Afghans who served the U.S. military to the United States, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll released on Sunday.
The poll, which asked Americans what the United States “should do for Afghans who worked for U.S. troops and officials in recent years, in intelligence or as translators, and who now might face punishment from the Taliban,” found that Trump voters were as supportive as the general population. Seventy-nine percent of Trump voters said the U.S. should help those Afghan allies come to the United States.
Despite overwhelming support for rescuing these allies, thousands of them could be left behind if President Biden sticks to his August 31 deadline for removing all U.S. troops.
“People involved in evacuation efforts tell me the Taliban are refusing to allow passage to the airport for anyone except for American citizens and green card holders,” CNN’s Jake Tapper reported on Monday. “This of course is creating fears of pending reprisals against Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas.”
Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, told reporters on Monday night: “Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders women leaders, it’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.”
Biden administration officials have said they hope to evacuate perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 American officials, and Biden estimated there are 50,000 to 65,000 Afghan allies and family members of those Afghans that the United States intends to evacuate. Biden has committed to staying in Afghanistan past his August 31 deadline if necessary to rescue American citizens; he has not made that same commitment to staying longer to rescue Afghans who served the U.S. military.
But members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are urging President Biden to abandon that August 31 deadline if necessary to rescue Afghan allies.
Asked if he believes Biden should stay as long as necessary to rescue interpreters, Republican congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin tells National Review: “I do. We made commitments to these people. I think the credibility of our commitments in the future will suffer if we don’t do that. If the Taliban doesn’t like it, well, f*** them. I mean, we’re the world’s sole superpower. We can do it. We just lack the will and the leadership from our commander in chief to do it.”
Democratic congresswoman Elissa Slotkin wrote on Twitter on Monday that pushing back the August 31 deadline is the most important thing Biden needs to do right now to rescue allies.
“It’s imperative we extend the August 31 deadline,” South Carolina GOP senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter. “President Biden can’t give in to the Taliban’s ultimatum. It would result in tens of thousands being left behind.”
“Their service was on a promise that if we left we would take them with us,” Michigan GOP congressman Peter Meijer says of Afghan interpreters. “The consequences of not keeping that commitment to them will be dire.”
“There’s obviously the moral and humanitarian consequences of our allies being left to fend for themselves and potentially be hunted down by the Taliban,” Meijer tells National Review. “There’s the degree to which that betrayal of our allies will be internalized and felt by members of our military and veterans’ community, and what that will do to them both psychologically and operationally,” he said, adding that abandoning allies now would badly damage the ability of the United States to recruit allies in a future conflict. “The next country we want to go into: Why the hell would anyone think that we’re out for anything but ourselves?”
Despite the pressure from Congress, it’s not clear whether the president will push back the deadline. On Sunday, when Biden was asked at a press conference about extending the August 31 deadline, he said: “We’ve discussed a lot with the Taliban. They’ve been cooperative in extending some of the perimeter. That remains to be seen whether we ask that question.” On Monday, the Taliban warned of “consequences” if U.S. troops remain in the country past August 31.
CNN reported on Monday evening that the military has told Biden he needs to decide by Tuesday whether to extend the deadline.
PHOTOS: Afghanistan Withdrawal