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How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation

By Rebecca Beitsch and Laura Kelly

The Hill

September 15, 2021

Congressional offices went to extraordinary measures to help in the evacuation effort of Americans and vulnerable Afghans stuck in Afghanistan amid the Taliban’s takeover of the country last month.

While Kabul’s quick fall shocked the world, Senate and House lawmakers soon found their offices overwhelmed with desperate pleas from Afghan Americans, military veterans of the war in Afghanistan, workers of nongovernmental organizations and others scrambling for contacts to save people stranded in the country suddenly under the rule of a terrorist organization.

Lawmakers and staffers also said they felt obligated to answer requests from constituents as well as those beyond their districts looking for help. Many offices found success in helping people evacuate, but those victories are dampened by the sheer numbers of people left behind.

While the administration evacuated about 125,000 people from Afghanistan last month, independent analysts estimate that more than 100,000 people who fall into a priority for evacuation were left behind.

“There’s a bit of … let’s say guilt. We had a big role to play. We did save a lot of lives. But it was very emotionally stressful — when you’re making life and death decisions and pleading with people on the ground at the airport itself to let these people in,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill.

“Because you know if they get in, they will escape. And if they don’t get in, they will die,” he said.

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