August 17, 2021
WASHINGTON — Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, issued the following statement on the situation in Afghanistan:
“In his remarks yesterday, President Biden provided a heartfelt and honest explanation to the American people regarding his commitment to ending America’s longest war. To those who advocate for an endless military presence in Afghanistan, he asked, ‘How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery? I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past.’
“When President Biden announced his withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, progressives applauded the move. We continue to maintain, as the White House clearly does, that even after spending $1 trillion, sending hundreds of thousands of troops into Afghanistan over 20 years and losing 2,300 American lives, the United States could not have averted this outcome without an endless military presence. And we agree with the President that the American government has a moral responsibility to all those affected by our actions.
“The President’s decision is overwhelmingly supported by the American people, with recent polling showing 70 percent of the country, with bipartisan majorities, supported his plan to withdraw all troops by September 11, 2021. Despite this consensus, Congressional Republicans have disingenuously chosen to play politics at this moment. Republican administrations began the war in Afghanistan, controlled it for 12 of the past 20 years, and initiated the peace process with the Taliban last year that led to an agreement for a U.S. withdrawal. They should participate in the needed examination of why 20 years of war have failed, rather than playing the blame game. Our focus now must be on the human beings on the receiving end of this policy.
“We appreciate the efforts the administration is undertaking to ensure the safety and security of those currently in Afghanistan, but our government needs to go farther — and work faster. The United States must ensure refugee processing moves forward without bureaucratic delay, and with special allowances recognizing the difficulty for people to leave Afghanistan. In addition to the State Department’s work to expedite Special Immigrant Visas, we must also expand these visas and grant Temporary Protected Status to Afghans residing in the United States. We must increase humanitarian aid to support civilians who fled to Kabul and provincial capitals and are without shelter, food, medical assistance or vaccines. The heartbreaking situation confronting ordinary Afghans after 20 years of American war requires us to act as quickly as we can.
“Finally, we urge the Biden Administration to continue engaging diplomatically with the Taliban and regional actors to avoid further bloodshed, protect human rights, and avoid mass migration and instability. This means cooperating with aid agencies, the United Nations, and neighboring countries with an interest in a positive outcome, including Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey.”