If there's one issue that should enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, it's the need to protect people in Afghanistan who've worked alongside Americans -- as translators and drivers, among other roles -- under impossibly difficult circumstances. The end of the U.S. war may be controversial, but taking care of those who face deadly retribution for having helped us should be a no-brainer.
"It is a life and death situation," Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said last month. "It'll be a black eye on the United States if we don't do everything in our power to protect these allies."
Quite right. And with this in mind, Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a decorated retired Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been helping lead the effort to save these Afghans' lives by expediting the process for them to receive special immigrant visas (SIVs), raising the federal cap and waiving application requirements.
There are logistical challenges that need to be overcome, but the effort itself -- rescuing those who are being hunted because they agreed to help the United States -- enjoys broad support, not only among elected officials, but also among military veterans.
After all, who's going to defend leaving these allies behind to die at the hands of Taliban soldiers eager to kill them? As it turns out, Bloomberg News found someone.
Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and long-time critic of the war in Afghanistan, has questioned whether Congress needs to act. Paul is well-known for blocking legislation, although he didn't specifically say he would do so on an Afghan visa bill. "I think those who speak English and are our friends should stay and fight for their country," Paul said. "I think if they all leave we're more likely to see the Taliban take over."
Oh. So as far as Rand Paul, a one-time presidential candidate, is concerned, Afghan interpreters put their lives on the line, assuming we'd look out for them. As the United States withdraws, our message should apparently be, "Taliban soldiers are coming to kill you. Here's a gun. Good luck."
Fortunately, the White House has a different policy in mind. NBC News reported yesterday afternoon:
The Biden administration plans to fly about 2,500 Afghans at risk of retaliation from the Taliban for their work with U.S. troops to a military base in Virginia in the coming days, the State Department said Monday. The group of Afghans are being flown directly to the United States because their visa applications are nearly complete and have passed security vetting, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
Legislative efforts on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, are ongoing and have the White House's backing. Proponents probably shouldn't count on Rand Paul's vote, though.