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Rep. Young Kim Speaks at House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing

Originally published in the Orange County Register on January 25, 2022

President Biden again said he owed “no apologies” for the aftermath of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Many Americans and our allies beg to differ.

The Biden administration withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan without a strategy to ensure stability in the region. As a result, 13 brave U.S. servicemembers lost their lives and many more were wounded, Americans are still at the mercy of the Taliban, Afghan partners who fought alongside U.S. troops against terrorism are being hunted down and Afghan women and families fear for their lives.

The chaos that unfolded was predictable and preventable. President Biden made multiple promises that no one would be left behind. Instead, they were left in the hands of the Taliban—a terrorist organization posing as a government. My Foreign Affairs Committee colleagues and I pressed the administration for months to evacuate Americans and vulnerable Afghans, but the administration chose to ignore advice from intelligence agencies, betray our allies and delay serious action until Kabul had fallen, leaving us in the crisis we face today.

Veterans, NGOs, Congressional offices and ordinary citizens have stepped up where the State Department was unprepared to get Americans and allies to safety through evacuation, protection, housing and other assistance amid rising threats from the Taliban and ISIS-K. While I do believe some State Department officials are earnestly trying to save lives, their task has proven too large to bear, with Secretary Blinken telling me he was trying to “put in place a system” in mid-September, weeks after Kabul had fallen. My office is one of many who has worked with outside groups to evacuate people from the region and still is working to get people to safety.

It is unacceptable that private groups working tirelessly to save lives in Afghanistan have hit bureaucratic roadblocks and red tape prohibiting them from chartering flights out of the country and receiving funding from the federal government. There is also no oversight of the State Department’s management of private evacuation groups from Afghanistan, including which groups they partner with, the criteria for those selections, how much taxpayer money is spent and whether any of that money is ending up in the hands of the Taliban.

American citizens and thousands of Afghans who fought alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan remain stranded. The U.S. to date has not evacuated a single Afghan qualifying under the P-2 special refugee program established before the fall of Kabul. The situation in Afghanistan for our fellow Americans and the Afghans who risked their lives to fight terrorism are endangered more with each passing day spent under Taliban rule.

The American people deserve transparency. That’s Why I introduced the Rescue Endangered SIVs and Citizens and Urgently Evacuate to Safety (RESCUES) Act to establish congressional oversight on State Department management of private evacuation operations to ensure taxpayer money is being spent responsibly and to reduce bureaucratic hurdles private groups face in receiving assistance from our government.

America’s word is on the line. For the sake of our national security, international credibility and duty to fellow Americans, we must get people to safety. I urge Congress to act quickly to pass this bill and reassert our oversight authority so Afghanistan evacuations can be as efficient as possible.

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