HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield today made an impassioned plea for “leadership on this issue” of how America can evacuate its Afghan allies speaking on Meet the Press Daily with Chuck Todd.
As an immediate measure to address the “bureaucratic calamity” that is preventing people from leaving Afghanistan for safety elsewhere, Hetfield called for the deployment of an empowered envoy directly supervised by the president who could coordinate the disorganized patchwork of agencies currently responsible for overseeing the evacuation of threatened Afghans.
Though overshadowed by the fatal suicide bombings earlier in the day, the “cascading… nightmare” of the obstructed escape of would-be refugees will affect far more people. At the moment, Hetfield stated, “no one is getting out,” but up to 250,000 people with direct connections to the U.S. operations could qualify and are waiting to leave.
“There is a fatal bottleneck because the preparations were woeful, despite the U.S. having “20 years to prepare for this not unlikely outcome,” Hetfield said.
Any time a large military operation is planned, there will be consequences for local populations for which U.S. officials need to plan, Hetfield noted. “Refugees need to stop being an afterthought in foreign policy,” he said.
As well as the urgent short-term and the general long-term, Hetfield counseled, there is a need to plan for a medium term where millions of threatened Afghans seek to leave over the next few months, even if that means finding a haven in Pakistan, Tajikistan, or Iran.