US President Joe Biden (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )
US lawmakers demanded that Joe Biden should answer critical questions on what happened during the evacuation phase in Afghanistan and what are his plans to move forward.
US lawmakers have written a letter to President Joe Biden over the current situation in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, asking a range of questions related to terrorism, nuclear weapon, infrastructure, military, women safety, China's ties with Taliban, Pakistan-Taliban relations etc.
The details of the letter dated August 24 and signed by the group of 68 lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives have emerged. The lawmakers demanded that Biden should answer critical questions on what happened during the evacuation phase in Afghanistan and what are his plans to move forward.
As per the letter, lawmakers said, "The situation in Afghanistan has rapidly metastasized into Taliban rule with reinstated oppression of women and girls, the repression of civil society, the displacement of countless Afghans from their homes who the Taliban then use force to prevent from fleeing Afghanistan, and a power vacuum that China seeks to fill by increasing its ties to the Taliban."
"The consequences of withdrawal from Afghanistan are not isolated to that country, or even to the Middle East region. The withdrawal carried geopolitical and strategic consequences that have already begun to unfold and will reverberate for decades," it added.
In the latest development, the US attacked an Islamic State "planner" in Afghanistan in retaliation for a deadly bombing outside Kabul airport on Thursday (August 26) that heightened the already tense situation. The US also said that there was a high risk of further blasts.
Among the scores killed in the suicide bomb blast, claimed by an Islamic State affiliate in the country, were 13 US service members, the most lethal incident for US troops in Afghanistan in a decade.
Details of the letter
In a letter to Biden, the lawmakers said the world has watched with utter shock as the Taliban took over Afghanistan with astonishing speed, "the result of unforced errors made by withdrawing completely the small remaining footprint of our main military force from Afghanistan, and by unnecessarily delaying the evacuation of US personnel and its Afghan partners".
Q1) What is your plan to evacuate Afghan SIVs and other vulnerable Afghans like women, girls, and former Afghan civil service employees from Afghanistan?
The lawmakers have asked Biden's plans to protect women journalists, scholars and employees of prominent non-government organisations and they also asked about the protection of religious and ethnic minorities, like the Hazaras.
Q2) Will you commit to abandoning the arbitrary August 31 withdrawal deadline and continuing Noncombatant Evacuation Operation until all Americans, allies, and at-risk Afghans are processed for evacuation?
The US and allies are hurrying to evacuate as many people from Afghanistan as possible before an Aug. 31 deadline. The US will continue evacuating people from Kabul airport until Aug 31 if needed but will prioritise the removal of US troops and military equipment on the last couple of days, the Pentagon has said. The lawmakers are, however, asking what will happen if the evacuations are not completed before the deadline.
Q3) What is your plan to counter the Chinese Communist Party's growing relationship with the Taliban?
Experts have weighed in on the possible Taliban and China ties as Beijing might look to cement its grip on the region. China has held out an olive branch to the Taliban, enticed by the country's mineral wealth, including its large reserves of lithium, a key component for electric vehicles.
Q4) What is your plan to help to ensure that the Taliban does not destabilise its nuclear neighbour, Pakistan?
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, there are reports that Islamabad had allowed a porous border to give Taliban access in Pakistan, hiding from US forces. When the Taliban captured Kabul, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Afghans had broken the "shackles of slavery". The lawmakers asked is Biden prepared to support regional allies militarily in the event that the Taliban militarise the Afghanistan border.
Q5) What is your plan to ensure that Al Qaida does not resurge and regain a foothold in Afghanistan?
As the NATO allies withdrew their troops from Afghanistan, several intelligence communities have warned that terror groups like Al Qaida and ISIS-K will dominate in the region. Some of the reports have also said that they will be given complete freedom to act by the Taliban. The lawmakers have asked what operations are prepared to counter this threat.
Q6) What is your plan to ensure that more US and Afghan military equipment does not end up in the hands of the Taliban?
One of the various questions was related to US-owned weapons, which have been asked prominently since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. From Humvee vehicles to Blackhawk helicopters, reports revealed the Taliban had seized most of the country, as well as any weapons and equipment left behind by fleeing Afghan forces. Pictures and videos showed the advancing insurgents inspecting long lines of vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear and even military drones.
Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armoured vehicles, including US Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones. The lawmakers have asked what are Biden's plans to disable any air forces that operate under orders from the Taliban.
Other points were made over Afghan refugees in the US, plans to support Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA)'s air traffic control, plans to support any free Afghanistan resistance, etc.