Kabul: The Afghan Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Mirwais Nab, who is visiting Poland, was asked about relations between Poland and Afghanistan and their ongoing revolution and while referring to Poland closing down its embassy in Afghanistan in 2014, Nab said that relations between the two countries go back as far as 1926 and that Afghanistan has maintained its embassy in Poland and hoped that Poland would reconsider re-opening its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.
Asked about Polish participation in the NATO mission to Afghanistan, the minister paid his respects to the fallen 44 Polish soldiers and the 900 wounded of the 30,000 Polish soldiers who served on a rotational basis in his country. He was appreciative of the Polish commitment to fighting terrorism and training of Afghan forces.
Nab conveyed that he is upbeat about what has been achieved under the NATO intervention, saying that the country has been rebuilt. But challenges remain with regard to combating terrorism, drug trafficking, and illegal migration, but there are also opportunities for economic cooperation and cultural cooperation and exchange.
Asked about the results of his visit, the Afghan minister felt security cooperation was the most important, but he also singled out agriculture as an area in which Poland with its successes and experience could contribute to Afghanistan. He also confirmed that the reopening of the Polish embassy in Kabul had been discussed.
The minister said that he respected the US and NATO decisions to withdraw forces from Afghanistan but hoped that close cooperation in terms of training and arms for Afghan troops would be maintained and noted that the Polish government was very open on this matter. Nab said he hoped that the withdrawal of Western troops would actually remove some of the motives for the Islamist insurgency, or at least expose that the extremists are being disingenuous. “The road to a peaceful settlement is open for those who wish to take it,” said Nab.
Meanwhile, Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said that the Biden administration must act as if its “hair [is] on fire” as time runs out to bring Afghans who helped US troops to safety before the military fully withdraws from Afghanistan.
“I want them to do everything within their power to solve this problem. I’m not being critical of the administration, but I just think it’s time to step up the game,” King added. King’s comments add to a growing chorus of lawmakers and others who have been pressing the administration to act with more urgency to grant visas to Afghans who helped US troops and evacuate them to a safe location such as Guam amid delays in visa processing.
Lawmakers have sent letters to the administration and questioned witnesses at hearings, as well as introduced legislation aimed at improving the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghans who served as interpreters for US troops during the 20-year war. US administration officials have said they are working to speed up visa processing, but no evacuation has been ordered despite the growing pressure.
The plan is to process at least 1,000-1,400 visa applications for Afghans who worked for the United States, not including their families, every month. By contrast, the US government says, it issued only 237 such visas in the last three months of 2020. But even with the new effort, the administration says there’s a limit to how fast a 14-step, multiple-agency process can move without changes to legislation. If all goes well, a visa could be processed in nine to 12 months.
The administration supports the legislation in Congress that would allow Afghans to do a medical check upon arriving in the United States, instead of in Afghanistan. It is also supports the legislation eliminating the requirement for a specific petition at the Department of Homeland Security.
Political talks between the government and the Taliban have largely stalled and it’s unclear how the Afghan security forces will perform after troops depart. The Taliban have assured Afghans who worked with foreign forces of their safety, but fighting has increased across Afghanistan ahead of the September 11 deadline for withdrawal. Afghans who worked for the United States during America’s longest war fear the insurgency will target them and their families, retribution for helping foreign forces.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured the Congress last week of his commitment to Afghans who worked with the United States, but also suggested any threats to their safety might not be immediate. “I wouldn’t necessarily equate the departure of our forces in July, August, or by early September with some kind of immediate deterioration in the situation,” Blinken said.
Blinken acknowledged there were 18,000 Afghans “in the pipeline” for potential visas. Half of them have expressed interest but haven’t yet filled out the necessary forms, he said.