News & Resources

One Year After Afghanistan Withdrawal Announcement: IRAP Reflects on Continued U.S. Obligation to Protect At-Risk Afghans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

April 14, 2022


Spencer Tilger


(New York, NY) – One year ago, President Biden announced that all U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by September 11, 2021. In response, IRAP expressed extreme concern “about the many Afghan civilians and allies who will be left behind without pathways for humanitarian protection” and called for “concrete and actionable plans to bring these Afghans to safety.” IRAP has represented and advocated on behalf of Afghans in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for more than a decade. 

Despite the pleas of Afghans and advocacy groups, including IRAP and other members of the Evacuate Our Allies coalition, the U.S. government took no action to implement a large-scale evacuation plan before the withdrawal and prevent the chaos that followed. Through the tenacity of our clients, the tireless efforts of IRAP’s staff, and the support of individuals inside and outside the government, many of IRAP’s Afghan clients were able to get to safety. However, hundreds of thousands of at-risk Afghans, including many IRAP clients, are still in danger in Afghanistan or other third countries, including SIV applicants targeted for their work with the U.S. mission.

As “Arian”, a SIV holder stuck in Afghanistan at the time, said in a recorded statement on a November press call, “We trusted the United States like a friend, but we are still waiting for support. We need the U.S. government to help us get out of the country through the evacuation process, or through some arrangement with neighboring countries. Then we could find our way and we would have hope again.”

The following is a statement from Sunil Varghese, Policy Director, IRAP

“On this one-year anniversary of the withdrawal announcement, IRAP urges the Biden administration to fulfill America’s promise of protection to those who were left behind, those who were separated from loved ones, and those whose lives remain in flux and in danger. 

The U.S. military and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan may have ended last August, but the U.S. government’s obligations and opportunities to protect at-risk Afghans did not. Despite much of the nation’s attention moving on from Afghanistan, the need to expand evacuations and create viable humanitarian pathways, including a functional U.S. refugee resettlement system, for hundreds of thousands of at-risk Afghans remains acute. For Afghans who did make it to the U.S., Congress still must create a permanent pathway for them to stay safely in the United States and restart their lives.

Without renewed attention and commitment, at-risk Afghans will be stuck in the same administrative limbo that has afflicted Iraqi allies and their families for more than a decade. The Biden administration must take immediate action to ensure that the U.S. can live up to its stated goals, best traditions, and ongoing obligations.”

Additional Background

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) develops and enforces a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons. Mobilizing direct legal aid, litigation, and systemic advocacy, IRAP serves the world’s most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders.