Kabul: Looking at the rising violence and Taliban offensive, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that an Afghanistan that does not respect the basic rights of its people, that does not have a representative and inclusive government, that does not abide by the main gains of the last 20 years is an Afghanistan that will be a pariah state.
“The Taliban has repeatedly said that they seek in the future a number of things – international recognition, international support; they want their leaders to be able to travel freely around the world; they would like sanctions lifted on them. And none of those things are going to be possible if the Taliban seeks to take the country by force and commits the kind of atrocities that have been reported,” he said.
In fact, Blinken also spoke on the priority designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and said that even as the US is withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan, the United States and our partners remain deeply engaged. “We’ll continue to work toward an Afghanistan where all Afghans can live in safety and security, and we will continue our support for Afghan institutions and for the gains that the Afghan people have made over the past 20 years,” Blinken said.
“We will keep engaging intensely in diplomacy to advance negotiations between the Afghan Government and the Taliban with the goal of a political solution, which we believe is the only path to lasting peace. Over the past 13 years, the State Department has issued more than 73,000 Special Immigrant Visas to eligible Afghans who have helped the United States and also to their families. Last year alone, we issued nearly 8,000 of those visas. Now we have accelerated and expanded the program. Congress recently increased the cap by another 8,000 visas. The first flight of Operation Allies Refuge arrived in the United States on Friday, the second flight arrived early on Monday morning, together transporting around 400 people, and those flights will continue,” Blinken said.
He added that the US is now focused on relocating a group of more than 1,000 applicants and their families who have nearly completed processing – around 4,000 people in total. “Additionally, we’re pursuing third-country agreements, so eligible Afghans can be quickly relocated to wait safely in another country while we finish elements of this rigorous vetting process. We’ve also created a Priority-2, or P-2, designation, granting access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for many of these Afghans and their family members,” he said.
Also, senior US State Department officials while explaining the time limit for the priority designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, said that the first step in this process is related to referrals and they hope to start that immediately. “The next thing that’s going to determine the time horizon is how quickly people – or how – when they make the decision to actually leave Afghanistan. We have to wait until they are outside of the country in order to begin processing. From that point on, it is a regular refugee resettlement program, and it is a somewhat lengthy process because there is a lot of security screening that goes on as part of the refugee program in itself. That can take anywhere from 12 to 14 months,” the senior official added.
On referrals, the officials also clarified, “The process is that individuals can be referred by their employer – not directly, but through their employer – to us through that website that I gave you. Once that happens, they are in our system and we will contact the individual via email to let them know they are now in the system and – for us. Once they get themselves out of Afghanistan, they alert us that they are now outside of the country, tell us where they are, and then we can begin the processing of their caseload to be presented to the Department of Homeland Security for adjudication.”
Hence, it is the responsibility of the applicant to get themselves out of Afghanistan. Another senior state department official added that as recently as June 4, the US had announced an additional $266 million in new humanitarian assistance to help Afghans both inside the country and those who have left. “Our total for humanitarian assistance now reaches nearly $3.9 billion since 2002,” he added.
In response to the U.S. State Department’s announcement of a priority designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program access to “Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization,” the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement, “We applaud the Biden administration for recognizing its moral responsibility and taking swift action to ensure that journalists affiliated with U.S. media outlets in Afghanistan are not left behind,” said Michael De Dora, CPJ’s Washington advocacy manager. “Given the potential for violence against journalists following the U.S. military withdrawal, it is imperative that the process for this priority designation be expedited. We urge the State Department to announce specific application details as soon as possible.”
The U.S. pullout from Afghanistan has left journalists, media workers, and their families at increased risk, especially in light of a U.S. intelligence report suggesting the government of Afghanistan could collapse within six months of full U.S. withdrawal, according to reports.
Meanwhile, T.S. Tirumurti, the Indian UN ambassador, whose country holds the Security Council presidency for the month of August, in an interview with Xinhua said that the Security Council is not considering a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan although the situation in the country is a matter of grave concern in light of the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces.
“At this point of time, I think we are looking at how the talks shape up. At this point of time, we are hoping the talks, the peace talks, will yield results. We are also hoping that there will be no military solution,” he told reporters on Monday. “That is where the focus has been right now. I don’t think we have quite come to the idea of a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan,” he said. The situation in Afghanistan is of deep concern to all members of the Security Council, he noted.
The violence is increasing. Women, girls, and minorities are being systematically targeted. Recently there was an attack on the UN compound in Herat, said Tirumurti. “In fact, I expect that probably the Security Council will be looking at these aspects sooner rather than later on Afghanistan,” he said. The United Nations has no peacekeepers in Afghanistan. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is a political mission.