Kabul: President Joe Biden on Friday signed emergency legislation that will reimburse more than a half-billion dollars the National Guard spent on protecting the US Capitol after the violent January 6 insurrection and increase the number of visas for allies who worked alongside Americans in the Afghanistan war.
The Senate approved the $2.1 billion legislation early Thursday afternoon, 98-0, and the House passed it immediately afterward, 416-11. Senators struck a bipartisan agreement on the legislation this week, two months after the House had passed a bill that would have provided around twice as much for Capitol security. But House leaders said they would back the Senate version anyway, arguing the money is urgently needed for the Capitol Police and for the translators and others who worked closely with U.S. government troops and civilians in Afghanistan.
The bill loosens some requirements for the visas, which lawmakers say are especially pressing as the U.S. military withdrawal enters its final weeks and Afghan allies face possible retaliation from the Taliban. The White House issued a statement of support for the legislation, saying the Biden administration backs the Capitol security improvements and “remains committed to supporting the Afghan people, including by fulfilling our commitment to Afghan nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. Government.”
For the allies in Afghanistan, the bill would allow 8,000 additional visas and provide $500 million for their emergency transportation, housing and other essential services. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the appropriations panel who negotiated the legislation with the Democrats, said it would be “shameful” not to help the Afghan allies and that they could be killed by the Taliban as the U.S. withdraws.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said senators “intend to keep our nation’s promises to brave Afghans who have taken great risks to help America and our partners fight the terrorists.” The House overwhelmingly passed separate legislation last week to provide the visas, 407-16. The Pentagon says the troop withdrawal is more than 95% complete and is to be finished by August 31. The first flight evacuating Afghans who worked alongside Americans in Afghanistan brought more than 200 people, including scores of children and babies in arms, to new lives in the United States on Friday.
This comes even as Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin said in an interview with TASS that the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, clouding the country’s future. “On the whole, developments in Afghanistan are unfolding according to a crisis scenario. The situation is getting worse every day, the Taliban is taking control of more and more areas of the country and Afghanistan’s future appears to be quite murky,” the Russian foreign intelligence chief pointed out.
“We do maintain contact with many intelligence agencies in the countries of the region, first and foremost, with our friends from Central Asian countries, CIS members, our Chinese colleagues, as well as with our colleagues from Pakistan, India and Iran,” Naryshkin stressed. “We not only share intelligence but also hold expert consultations on how the situation will unfold in the country,” he added.
On the other hand, Afghan envoy to India Farid Mamundzay on Friday cautioned China for ignoring Taliban violence and said that if terror groups continue to operate in Afghanistan then it will adversely impact Beijing. Answering a question on China-Taliban talks and its impact on the war-ravaged Afghanistan, Mamundzay told ANI, “It’s something that the Chinese will be able to comment (outcome of the China-Taliban talks).
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But, from our perspective, we would want responsible governments like China in this region to pass very strong messages to the Taliban. The message of letting go off violence would be critical to them.”
“China has also suffered from terrorism and would continue to suffer from terrorism if terrorist groups remain operational in Afghanistan,” advised Mamundzay to China. He also urged the Chinese government to cut ties with Taliban. “The Chinese government should tell Taliban to enter meaningful peace dialogue with Afghan government. We would want all countries in the region particularly major countries like China and India to give strong messages to Taliban,” added the Afghan envoy.
He was at Raisina House attending Indo-Afghan Cultural Week when he made strong remarks on China. Earlier on Tuesday, Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund met Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.