OPINION

Senatorial Update with Deb Fischer

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

On August 26, 13 American heroes and more than 150 Afghan civilians lost their lives in a terrorist attack outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. I was devastated to learn that a son of Nebraska, Corporal Daegan William-Tyeler Page of the U.S. Marine Corps, was among them.

Bruce and I extend our deepest condolences to Daegan’s family members and friends. We hold them in our prayers during this difficult time. We will remember and honor Daegan’s service and sacrifice to our country.

These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice so that others might live. In such a dangerous situation, we knew a cowardly attack like this could happen, but our servicemembers selflessly remained at the airport and continued operations to help as many American citizens, allies, and Afghan partners escape the Taliban as possible. All told, the U.S. and our allies have evacuated over 100,000 people from Kabul since mid-August.

My office has been working around the clock to help as many people as we can. We have been in contact with a special operations forces officer in the U.S. military who served in Afghanistan. He is worried that rushing the evacuation risks leaving the brave Afghans he served with at the mercy of these terrorists. He is especially concerned for his former interpreter, who risked his life to work with America against the Taliban. Now, he says, his interpreter may not make it.

His story is far from the only one. I was also contacted by another Nebraskan who served two deployments in Afghanistan. He said that two of his former translators will be in “mortal danger” if they are left behind, and he stressed that he wouldn’t be alive today if not for their work.

Even Afghans whose service with the U.S. military earned them a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), which gives some translators the right to immigrate to the United States, are at risk of being left behind. Many have been turned away at the Kabul airport, and still others haven’t been able to make it to the airport at all. Afghans whose SIV applications are still pending are at even greater risk of being abandoned in Taliban-run Afghanistan.

Another Afghan interpreter who came to the U.S. with an SIV several years ago told my office that two of his immediate relatives are among those who have tried and failed to make it out of Kabul. He said that the crowd was so large in the days before the August 26 attack, they couldn’t even get near the airport.

The United States made a promise to these brave Afghans – if you work with us, we said, then we will take care of you and your family. By leaving them at the mercy of the very terrorists they fought against for two decades, we are betraying that promise.

Leaving American citizens behind is an even greater betrayal. American citizenship means many things, among them that we will do everything we can to avoid abandoning you behind enemy lines.

President Biden should do everything he can to save every American citizen and the courageous Afghans who worked with us. If he chooses to desert them when it is within his power to help them, he will be neglecting one of his most fundamental duties as president. Please join me in praying for our fallen heroes and for the safety of everyone who remains in Afghanistan.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

United States Senator Deb Fischer