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Fate of Afghan allies in faraway war divides US Republicans

Following compassionate calls by US Republicans to rescue Afghan allies desperate to flee the Taliban, unbending anti-immigration conservatives — including the party’s loudest voice, Donald Trump — have turned to warning against an influx of refugees.

The sudden collapse of Afghanistan’s government amid the turbulent exit of US forces, and the apparent lack of preparedness by Joe Biden’s administration, has cast a harsh light on the president. But it also is highlighting a fissure among Republicans over who gets into the United States, and whether a wave of refugees would be welcome.

As US forces secured the airport in Kabul to oversee a massive evacuation operation, top Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others cited the moral obligation of rescuing Afghans who worked with the American military and diplomatic corps.

The Statue of Liberty, the iconic symbol of freedom in New York harbor that welcomes the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” may serve as inspiration for Biden to speed up the evacuation of Afghans along with Americans.

Thousands of Afghan translators, interpreters and others have applied for special immigrant visas to the United States.

“We owe it to these people, who are our friends and who worked with us, to get them out safely if we can,” McConnell said Tuesday on Kentucky television.

A handful of Republican governors have expressed an eagerness to receive some of the Afghan refugees.

Trump, who as president reached a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 on the US withdrawal, himself sounded a note of compassion Monday, saying Afghans who worked with US forces “should be allowed to seek refuge.”

But after a conservative media pundit posted a photo of some 600 Afghans crowded onto a US military plane leaving Kabul, Trump voiced criticism of the images.

“This plane should have been full of Americans,” he said Wednesday. “America First!”

Several conservative media pundits repeated various versions of the same message.

Tucker Carlson, the popular nightly Fox News host and a fierce opponent of immigration, warned that the number of Afghans resettling in the United States could swell into the “millions” over the coming decade.

“So first we invade, and then we are invaded,” Carlson told his viewers Monday.

Pro-Trump conservative radio talkshow host Charlie Kirk offered his own provocative assessment, invoking the name of a liberal US congresswoman — and Muslim immigrant — that Republicans often weaponize for political gain.

“Joe Biden wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently,” he said on his show this week shortly after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

And Republican congressman Tom Tiffany, a Trump ally, warned of a “catastrophe” should thousands of refugees from the “known terrorist hotbed” of Afghanistan be allowed into the United States without strict vetting.

Such voices are in the minority for now. But officials in the White House appear concerned that those sentiments could percolate into the mainstream and turn the moral obligation to aid US allies into a debate about immigration.

Traditional Republicans are fighting that inclination.

In a letter to Biden Thursday, 16 Republican senators demanded the president do everything in his power to safely extract all Americans and Afghan allies.—AFP

Michael Mathes, "Fate of Afghan allies in faraway war divides US Republicans," Business Recorder. 2021-08-22.
Keywords: Political sciences , Statue of Liberty , Republican governors , American military , Terrorist , Refugees , Donald Trump , Joe Biden , Afghanistan , American , AFP

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