Senator who votes with Democrats wants Biden's 'hair on fire' to get interpreters out of Afghanistan

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A senator who typically sides with Democrats is pressing President Joe Biden to do more to help Afghan interpreters who assisted U.S. forces there get out of the country, and possible harm, before American forces depart this summer.

"I want the White House's hair on fire" over the pressing need to ensure Afghans' safety, Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, told reporters. "The time is short and getting shorter all the time."

There are some 18,000 special visa applications from Afghan citizens awaiting processing, a backlog that could take some time to ease. It reportedly takes 900 days to process applications, meaning U.S. forces will be long gone by the time the backup might be resolved.

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Getting Afghan interpreters out of the country will be difficult because it is landlocked, meaning there is no way to remove hundreds or thousands at a time by ship.

Biden has ordered all American troops out of the country by Sept. 11, and Pentagon officials say they are ahead of schedule.

But King wants more action on helping interpreters and their families get out, too, fearing many will be killed or harmed by a resurgent Taliban.

"The signal it sends is, do not help the Americans, because when the crunch comes, they're going to abandon you," King said. "You cannot operate in a foreign theater without the cooperation and assistance of residents there, who believe in the cause that you're supporting. But they're going to have to think twice if there's a major bloodbath after we leave Afghanistan and we didn't do everything possible to solve this problem."

“We've got to speed it up," the senator said.

One way would be to move Afghan interpreters and their families to territories held by NATO allies. Think places like Guam, an American territory but not a state.

"Afghanistan is a NATO operation, and there were NATO allies involved along with us in Afghanistan, pretty much from the beginning," King said. "I think we need to call upon our NATO allies to help with this process and perhaps to provide a way station for some of these people."

The Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees member, however, has not discussed such a plan with Biden.

Senior White House advisers say they are addressing the matter.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters recently that getting the interpreters out is a "massive priority" for Biden, adding the U.S. president discussed the matter with NATO leaders during a summit this week.

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"He spoke with a few leaders, particularly like the Germans, who have troops as part of the drawdown now in Afghanistan, about interpreters, translators, others who have supported not just us, but NATO and their countries about what we’re going to collectively do to make sure that we meet the obligation we have to get them out," Sullivan said.

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Tags: News, Afghanistan, Joe Biden, White House, Angus King, Military

Original Author: John T. Bennett

Original Location: Senator who votes with Democrats wants Biden's 'hair on fire' to get interpreters out of Afghanistan

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