July 12, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced that he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Afghan Allies Protection Act, to help protect the Afghan civilians who risked their lives to support the U.S. mission. This bill would increase the number of authorized visas, remove extraneous paperwork requirements and improve the program’s efficiency during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In addition to Senator King, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
“Nations are judged by the manner and care with which they leave the field of battle — not just by future foes and prospective allies, but also by the eyes of history,” said Senator King. “The world is watching to see what we do — or don’t do — for our Afghan allies in this life-or-death moment. It’s not only a strategic decision, but a moral imperative.”
In light of increasing violence and major territorial gains by the Taliban, President Biden held a press conference last week to lay out U.S. strategy as troops withdraw from Afghanistan. In response to the President’s remarks, Senator King stated that he will “be looking to hear more from his administration on the details of the implementation of this moral and strategic imperative”. A concrete plan to strengthen the SIV program – as outlined by the Afghan Allies Protection Act – would allow the U.S. to fulfill its promise to the Afghans who supported and saved the lives of American service members and diplomatic personnel. The SIV program is one of the best paths to ensuring the safety of Afghan allies that were integral to the U.S. mission.
The legislation would provide immediate improvements and strengthen efficiency of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program by:
· Increasing the number of authorized visas;
· Changing the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year;
· Postponing the required medical exam until the applicant and their family have arrived in the United States;
· Removing the requirement for a credible sworn statement regarding the threat an applicant faces;
· Removing the “sensitive and trusted” requirement for International Security Assistance Force and Resolute Support employment; and
· Providing for Special Immigrant status for certain surviving spouses and children of murdered applicants.
In recent weeks, Senator King has been highlighting the need to protect our Afghan partners, while raising awareness and pressure for needed action from the Biden Administration. In a column for the Military Times, Senator King cited that continued delays in the SIV process “could very well be a death sentence for those who put their lives on the line to help the United States”, in addition to potentially discouraging future allies from working with American military efforts. Additionally, he pressed a top Defense Department nominee in Senate testimony for his commitment to prioritize efforts to bring America’s Afghan partners to safety, and joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues to urge President Joe Biden to streamline the SIV program for Afghan nationals who worked for or on behalf of the United States.