In an interview with CNN on Sunday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared critical of President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. “This is what we call a wicked problem. There are consequences both foreseen and unintended of staying and of leaving,” she told CNN.
Clinton cites “two huge consequences” for Afghanistan:
- the “potential collapse of the Afghan government and a takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban,” and
- “a resumption of activities by global terrorists, most particularly by Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.”
Similarly, she warned of a “civil war” in some parts of the country and “a government largely run by the Taliban in the not too distant future,” and asked, “How do we help and protect the many thousands of Afghans”—those who worked and spoke up for women’s rights and human rights, and those who worked with the U.S. and NATO?
On April 13, President Biden announced his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021—the date that marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan amidst the ongoing peace talks as well as without any conditions publicly placed on the Taliban has garnered criticism from experts, who suggest the U.S. has given away one of the main levers in the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Since the announcement of the decision by Biden, the Taliban leaders in Doha have not participated in negotiations with the Afghan government.
In an effort to protect civil servants like journalists and activists from Taliban retaliation post-withdrawal, many have pushed for the Biden administration to expand the government’s special immigrant visa (SIV) program. As ABC News reports:
Since 2006, Congress has made available a set number of special immigrant visas, or SIVs, for Afghan and Iraqi translators or for contractors who face an “ongoing serious threat as a consequence of such employment.” But the application process, which by law should take nine months, on average takes four years —with many applicants … waiting far longer. Those delays have been further exacerbated by a halt to interviews because of COVID-19.
Referencing the SIV program, Clinton warned of a “huge refugee outflow” and said she hopes “the administration in concert with the Congress will set up a very large visa program.” In the past, the SIV has only helped those who worked with U.S. and NATO and has not included families or siblings above 18—but many hope the Biden administration will expand and expedite the program to cover families as well.
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The Biden administration decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is part of the U.S.-Taliban deal signed by the Trump administration in February 2020. The agreement required the U.S. to withdraw by May 1. As part of the deal, the U.S. stopped attacking Taliban hideouts by air or night raids. In return, the Taliban pledged not to attack the U.S. or its allies’ forces in Afghanistan, to enter negotiations with the Afghan government, and to reduce violence.
While the Taliban did not attack the U.S. and its allies, the group increased its attacks against the Afghan forces and engaged in a large campaign of assassinating those who spoke up against the group. In a recent wave of violence, just this week, in a bomb attack in Logar province near Kabul, 30 people were killed and as many as 100 were injured. Many of the killed and wounded were students.
Afghans and their allies hoped the Biden administration would put pressure on the Taliban and would not leave at a time when the security situation in the country has deteriorated because of the increased attacks. The decision came as a shock and many Afghans feel abandoned by their allies once again, fearing a repeat of the history of the 1990s.