CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and 3rd District Congresswoman Carol Miller are working on issues related to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the resulting problems getting Americans and Afghani supporters and staff out of the country.
In a statement Monday, Capito, R-W.Va., announced she was joining 27 of her Republican colleagues in the Senate in supporting the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Capito said the bill seeks to address several of the pending issues and questions surrounding President Joe Biden’s administration withdrawal plans and the future of relations with Afghanistan.
“The Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan left Americans and our allies stranded in a Taliban-controlled state,” Capito said. “There’s been a lack of accountability and a failure by the White House, State Department, and Department of Defense to take responsibility for their unconscionable foreign policy blunders.”
The Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act would create a task force within the State Department focused exclusively on evacuating the remaining Americans from Afghanistan, as well as Afghan green card holders, and those Afghans with special immigrant visas. The bill would put in place a plan to expedite approval and processing of SIV applications.
The bill also requires the U.S. to create counterterrorism strategies; determine the status of U.S. military equipment left behind in the country; authorizes sanctions against Taliban officials and the foreign governments and organizations that support the regime and engage in terrorism, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses; advises against recognizing Taliban officials as U.S. or United Nations ambassadors; a review of reign assistance to those who support the Taliban; and restrictions on non-humanitarian aid to the country.
“This legislation would take necessary steps the administration has failed to implement, such as putting in a place a strategy to evacuate those left behind, sanction the Taliban, and restrict and review any future aid to the country,” Capito said.
On the House side, Miller, a Republican who represents West Virginia’s southern counties, joined 21 Republican and Democratic House members in penning a letter to Biden on Thursday.
The letter seeks guidance from the Biden administration on what congressional offices are supposed to respond to requests for Americans, Afghan green card holders and Afghans with SIV status.
“Congressional offices have been the primary, and often only, point of contact for thousands of men, women, and children surviving under a brutal Taliban regime … We feel it is the duty of your administration to immediately issue guidance for Members of Congress on how we can best assist those who reach out to our office requesting immediate direction,” the joint letter stated.
The State Department issued a total of 34,400 through the SIV program, including 8,000 additional SIVs since July 30, one month before U.S. troops pulled out of Hamid Karzai International Airport. Most of Afghanistan is now in the hands of the Taliban, an organization of Islamic extremists who once controlled the country and sheltered al Qaida, the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Attacks by the Taliban on Afghanistan citizens not strictly following Sharia law have been reported.
“We continue to directly receive horrific evidence, such as videos, photographs, and audio messages documenting the destruction and harm inflicted on our constituents and American allies at the hands of the Taliban. For many of those who have reached out to our offices, we are their first point of contact. We are the ones who are giving them hope that the United States has not forgotten their service to our country and that we will honor our promise not to leave them behind to a fate of near certain death,” the letter said.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, helping set up a friendly government. The U.S. began negotiations with the Taliban under former president Donald Trump to begin pulling U.S. and coalition forces out of the country, an effort continued under Biden.
According to a survey released Monday by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 72-percent of respondents said they supported granting refugee status to those who worked with the U.S. and Afghanistan governments before the fall of the country to the Taliban. Out of the 53,000 Afghanis spread out across U.S. military bases overseas, 14,000 are expected to start coming to the U.S. as soon as this week.