HARTFORD — U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy called Tuesday for increased protection for women in Afghanistan as the Taliban has swept into power in a chaotic country.
The senators, along with a bipartisan group of more than 40 colleagues, are looking for increased efforts to ensure that women and children are removed safely from the war-torn country, where American forces have largely withdrawn after 20 years of fighting.
Murphy, who serves as chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, and others are calling for President Joe Biden’s administration to move quickly to ensure the safety of the women leaders.
In a letter to top Biden administration officials, the senators asked for the creation of a humanitarian parole category that would be designed for women leaders, journalists, activists, human rights defenders and members of the Afghan Special Security Forces so that they can overcome bureaucratic hurdles to get to the United States.
“We and our staff are receiving regular reports regarding the targeting, threatening, kidnapping, torturing, and assassinations of women for their work defending and promoting democracy, equality, higher education, and human rights,” the senators wrote. “While we welcomed the expansion of the eligibility requirements for Special Immigrant Visas and the creation of the Priority 2 category in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, we must also protect those women who might fall through the cracks of the U.S. Government’s response.’'
During a news conference in Hartford on Tuesday, Blumenthal said there have been “floggings and torture” in towns where the Taliban has taken control.
“Women and girls need a means of escape,” Blumenthal said, adding that extra flights are needed for the swift evacuations.
“We greatly appreciate your efforts to help save the lives of Afghans who have advanced U.S. and Afghan joint interests over the last generation, standing for peace, democracy, and equality,” the senators wrote. “We are all in agreement that we owe them our unqualified support.”
They also called for faster ways to process applications for those who are not American citizens but have helped the United States over the past 20 years.
“Particularly for women who are currently targets — even hunted by Taliban fighters who are going house-to-house with their names — the path to protection and safety under the Priority 2 designation is not accessible,” the senators added. “While we understand there is little processing capacity at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, for these women to access a third country for processing is almost or completely impossible with all borders crossings now closed or controlled by the Taliban.”
The Biden administration and others have been surprised by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government as the president left the country and the military provided little resistance to the Taliban in many areas. Both Republicans and Democrats have questioned why the administration was not more prepared for the Taliban takeover of the capital of Kabul, which sent many Afghans to the airport in a desperate attempt to board flights out of the country.
“We need to analyze what went wrong here,” Blumenthal said at the news conference. “We need to be very tough-minded and clear-eyed in asking tough questions — and I will be in the Armed Services Committee — because nothing like this cratering of the Afghan regime was warned or envisioned.”