Leading human rights organizations on Friday called on President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to urgently do more to evacuate Afghans from harm’s way.
Advocating for US forces to remain on the ground until the most at-risk Afghans are safely out of the country, including past August 31, the organizations raised concerns that the ongoing approach of the Biden administration risks jeopardizing the lives of thousands of people, including activists, journalists, teachers and other vulnerable Afghans.
The signatories to a letter sent to President Biden included Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, HIAS, Freedom House, Scholars at Risk and several other organizations.
They expressed serious concerns about the credible threat of retaliation thousands of Afghans would face from the Taliban for their beliefs, associations, or simply for being who they are.
They asserted that while the United States has a responsibility to safely evacuate Afghans at risk, under current conditions, the U.S. is not on track to evacuate many of those it can bring out of the country.
“It is indisputable that the U.S. helped create and perpetuate this crisis. For two decades, the U.S. government poured trillions of dollars into the longest war in U.S. history and committed human rights violations along the way. And today, the Biden administration is failing to account for its own role in creating this humanitarian catastrophe. The United States has a responsibility to act now for the thousands of Afghans whose lives are at risk—before it’s too late,” said Paul O’Brien, the executive director of Amnesty International USA.
The security environment surrounding Hamid Karzai International Airport remains unstable, preventing many Afghan and international civilians from safely arriving for their evacuation flights, the organizations said, adding that there are credible reports of Afghans being beaten by Taliban fighters as they seek to flee the city.
They asserted that even if the evacuation operation were to reach the administration’s stated target of airlifting between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day, many people whose lives are at risk are unlikely to be able to leave.
Specifically, the organizations call on the White House to:
- Plan for US forces to remain on the ground until the most-vulnerable Afghans are safely out of the country, including past August 31;
- Work with partners and allies to assist in the safe passage to the airport for those seeking to depart;
- Work with partners and allies so that the airport itself remains safe, operational, and supplied with infrastructure necessary to support departing Afghan and foreign nationals;
- Work with civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to ramp-up capacity and coordination of evacuation efforts beyond the originally stated goal of 5,000 – 9,000 people per day; and
- Take all feasible measures to ensure that all flights leaving Afghanistan are full.
The organizations warned that failure to take these actions will heighten the risk to the lives of thousands and underscored that it is imperative that the U.S. develop a more effective evacuation operation and continue it as long as necessary to bring about the safe departure of all those in Afghanistan most at risk.