Asylum file from the Afghan interpreter to the State Department
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst said on Wednesday that her office had done everything possible to assist an Afghan interpreter living in Iowa Falls, but her asylum claim is now in the hands of the U.S. State Department.
“Our office was involved, as well as that of Senator (Chuck) Grassley, and at this point we have done everything we can on the Congress side with this matter,” she said Wednesday. “It’s in the hands of the State Department right now and it would be up to the administration to decide how this is handled.”
Zalmay Niazy, known as Zee, worked for years as a translator for the US armed forces in Afghanistan before moving to Iowa Falls to escape the Taliban. His asylum claim was rejected in May and he is looking for ways to fight his deportation from the country.
In the denial, Niazy is accused of “participating in terrorist activities”, which his lawyer believes is due to Niazy’s decision to give bread to the Taliban fighters who threatened his family when he was 9 years old.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Grassley said Niazy will have to go through the hearing process for her removal proceedings.
“Until he has a hearing on his deportation, there is nothing he can do or anyone else can do because he will have to go through this process,” he said. -he declares.
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Grassley: We need to make sure our allies are safe
In a call with reporters on Wednesday, Ernst, a Republican, also criticized the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan, saying she feared Afghan interpreters and civilians who helped the United States were put in danger.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has said the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will be completed by August 31. He said in remarks to the White House that his military commanders advised him to act quickly once the withdrawal began, saying “speed is security.”
Biden has pledged to evacuate interpreters and other Afghan civilians who assisted the United States during the war to third countries while their visa applications are considered. He said on Wednesday that flights evacuating these civilians from Afghanistan would begin the last week of July.
“Those who helped us will not be left behind,” Biden said in June.
Ernst, a veteran who commanded troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom, said she was grateful that the United States began to withdraw its Afghan allies from the country, “but it’s still weeks away. – and a lot can happen in a matter of weeks.
“I am extremely concerned about the lack of progress that we have already had,” she said. “Most of the allied nations that were operating with us in Afghanistan have already brought out their interpreters.”
Ernst also said other Afghans, including those who have worked for US intelligence agencies in rural parts of the country, cannot travel safely to the capital Kabul to complete the required paperwork and will likely have to flee. the country.
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“I am very concerned that we have delayed so long, we have been so slow to respond on the part of the State Department that many of those seeking refuge in the United States simply will not be able to make this trip.” , she said.
Grassley said the special visa program for Afghan and Iraqi civilians who assisted the United States is overdue, and the United States needs to ensure its allies are safe while their applications are reviewed.
“We owe it to these people to make sure they have safe transit out of the country, to the United States or another country,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of time checking everyone in and so we should find them safe haven in the meantime.”
Ernst fears withdrawal from Afghanistan will leave “space for extremist groups” to regroup
Ernst said that “many of the threats that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place are spreading to the region” and that she is concerned about a resurgence of the Taliban and a consolidation of terrorist cells once the American forces will have withdrawn completely.
“President Biden’s announcement undoubtedly emboldens the Taliban and their allies,” she said. “Once the US military leaves, I fear the Afghan government will find it difficult to hold on, leaving extremist groups like Al Qaeda and rogue terrorist states like Iran the opportunity to regroup to continue attacks on United States”
Biden announced in April that the United States would withdraw all of its troops by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the war, before stepping up the schedule last week. The majority of US troops and NATO allies have already left the country.
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The United States has withdrawn more than 90% of its troops and equipment and handed over seven facilities to the Afghan army, the Pentagon central command announced last week. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed earlier Thursday that most British troops have also left Afghanistan.
Biden defended the pullout in a White House speech last week.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to build a nation,” he said. “It is the right and responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”
Journalist Brianne Pfannenstiel of Des Moines Register and USA Today contributed to this article.