A group of hundreds of veterans and military personnel is imploring the Biden administration and Congress to help the Afghans who were left behind at the end of the war.
The letter, which was organized by the nonpartisan all-volunteer group #AfghanEvac, was addressed to President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
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"The withdrawal of the American presence from Afghanistan has prompted unprecedented action by a coalition of Veterans, active duty military, frontline civilians, non-profit, private sector, academic, and other entirely volunteer organizations working hand-in-hand with willing partners within the Departments of State and Defense to assist in the evacuation and resettlement of the aforementioned individuals,” the letter, which was signed by nearly 285 people, per NBC, reads.
They go on to say that their efforts to help are unsustainable, thus requiring government intervention.
“The sheer volume and complexity of this crisis, however, renders our work untenable without increasing the formal support of the US Government,” the letter continues.
The letter details how many of these veterans, military personnel, and concerned citizens received desperate pleas from Afghans who were left in Afghanistan following the United States's withdrawal at the end of August.
“Most of our coalition partners were called to action under similar and heartbreaking circumstances: an unexpected text from their former Afghan interpreter or driver who remained behind; a call for help from the allies who became family following their resettlement in the US; a desperate plea from the patriot who volunteered to work side-by-side with US troops in support of our mission,” the letter explains.
The veterans and volunteers, per the letter, were left with the same feeling: “How can this be, what came of my service?”
The letter includes a list of demands for the Biden administration, Congress, the State Department, Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.
The letter calls for the administration to create a task force authority by no later than February that would develop and implement a multiyear plan for how to support the Afghan allies who were rescued or those hoping to leave. The veterans want the State Department to authorize virtual visa interviews and medical waivers, and they want the Defense Department to retain “lily [pads]," or intermediary staging bases, overseas.
"The Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services should work together to establish ongoing mental health support services for evacuated Afghans and American volunteers and public servants involved in the withdrawal, to include dedicated programming with easy and continual availability. HHS should be designated the lead agency for this effort," the letter adds.
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The coalition called on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act and to ensure that the National Defense Authorization Act provides humanitarian efforts for evacuees.
“We made promises to these individuals and their families — and to our servicemembers and Veterans — that their service would be honored, and it is incumbent upon us to uphold that promise,” the letter concludes. “This is the time to demonstrate, by the power of our example, the very best of America.”