The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has dragged out the process of issuing visas for months to specialists working for the U.S. in Afghanistan and their evacuation from the country. The Washington Post accused the officials of that.
As the newspaper notes, some of the local professionals who worked for the U.S. military and diplomats for nearly 20 years of U.S. presence have already been evacuated from Afghanistan, but thousands more remain in the country. According to statements by U.S. authorities, including Biden himself, helping U.S. allies in Afghanistan and getting them out of the country is a priority for Washington. However, as the experts interviewed by The Washington Post noted, in reality, the current administration has not been active on this issue for many months.
Afghan nationals need a special immigrant visa to enter the United States. And in the months before and after Biden confirmed his intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the process of issuing these visas was extremely slow. Thus, from January 1 to March 31, the State Department approved the issuance of only 137 visas. The White House attributed this low processing rate to bureaucracy and restrictions due to the pandemic coronavirus.
According to the newspaper, the pace of issuing visas to citizens of Afghanistan accelerated only by the summer, after months of virtually fruitless negotiations between representatives of various nonprofit organizations helping refugees and officials from the Biden administration. According to James Mierwaldis, chairman of the NGO No One Left Behind, human rights activists warned officials that the situation in Afghanistan could deteriorate very quickly and asked for a contingency plan that would require the rapid evacuation of Afghans from the country. вЂњAll we asked for was a plan ... But then they didn't do anything,вЂќ the newspaper's interlocutor stressed.
In addition, it is known that shortly after Biden's announcement about leaving Afghanistan in April, lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties created a special working group, which was supposed to influence the White House and help speed up the issuance of visas to Afghans. However, the first meeting between administration officials and the working group did not take place until mid-May, and the second was already in early June.
According to interlocutors of The Washington Post, such delays on the part of the authorities could be due to the reluctance of officials to deal with the problem of Afghan refugees at a time when the attention of the American public was riveted to the migration crisis on the U.S. southern border. The Biden administration feared that his opponents would speculate on this topic and try to score additional political points at the expense.
Biden himself, in turn, noted that the refusal to evacuate the Afghan citizens earlier was connected with the request of the Afghan government. The country's authorities allegedly feared that the mass exodus of refugees could provoke a crisis of confidence in the local government.
Earlier it was reported that Biden called the chaos that arose when U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan inevitable. According to him, the likelihood of such a development was taken into account when making the decision to withdraw Americans from the country.
May 1 saw the beginning of the official withdrawal of the US and NATO troops from the Afghan territories. After that, the situation in the country became tenser and the Taliban forces became more active. On August 15, the militants declared about the control of the whole territory of Afghanistan. All commercial flights from Kabul were canceled. Hundreds of Afghans then headed to Kabul International Airport to flee the country, many running onto the runway