Amy Klobuchar, Susan Collins Urge U.S. to Prioritize 'Needs of Women & Marginalized' Afghan Evacuees

"Those leading the evacuation efforts must consider how women's livelihoods, health, employment, and social participation have been impacted by leaving their homes," the two senators wrote in a letter sent to U.S. officials Friday

Amy Klobuchar, Susan Collins
Amy Klobuchar (left), Susan Collins. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty; Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Susan Collins urged U.S. officials on Friday to prioritize dedicating resources to meet the needs of women and marginalized groups who have been evacuated from Afghanistan.

"With the Taliban in power, many women have been forced to evacuate to protect themselves and their loved ones," the lawmakers said, in a joint letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. "Those leading the evacuation efforts must consider how women's livelihoods, health, employment, and social participation have been impacted by leaving their homes."

Sixty-one-year-old Klobuchar, a Democrat, and 68-year-old Collins, a Republican, cited recent reports that found at least three women delivered babies during the evacuation.

In their letter, they urged the U.S. to offer obstetric services to any pregnant evacuees, psychosocial support, childcare, "mitigation procedures for sexual assault and financial predation, and help with family reunification."

The letter continued: "In order to live up to our commitment to support Afghan refugees, we must offer significant focus to women's needs in the evacuation and relocation process. We look forward to working with you to help women evacuees relocate safely and with the support they need."

Taliban fighters swept through Afghanistan last month, taking city after city as American troops began their planned withdrawal. After the country's capital, Kabul, fell with little resistance from the government or national army, the efforts to evacuate both American citizens and Afghan visa applicants and refugees increased in urgency.

Marginalized groups and women, in particular, feared the Taliban, who ruled brutally prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001, largely denying women and girls access to education, among other much-decried practices.

The Taliban now insists its rule will not repeat the barbarism of its reign before 9/11, though political experts are wary of those claims.

Pentagon officials said this week that the historically large airlift operation — one that drew fierce criticism — helped at least 122,000 people flee the country, the Washington Post reported.

Per comments made by a senior administration official last week, evacuees have included American citizens and green card holders; Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families (including many who worked with U.S. service members as translators and in other roles); and other Afghans who face particular danger from the Taliban (such as people who worked for the Afghan government, activists, and journalists).

The vast majority of Afghans who applied for visas to leave the country still remain there, however.

"I would say it's the majority of them," one State Department official estimated to the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, in response to a question regarding how many visa applicants remained in the country. "Just based on anecdotal information about the populations we were able to support."

U.S officials say that the military operation in the country has now entered a "diplomatic sequel" phase, in which the Department of State will work to get out both remaining Americans and any remaining eligible Afghans.

If you would like to support those in need during the upheaval in Afghanistan, consider:

* Donating to UNICEF to aid Afghans in the country or

* Donating to the International Refugee Assistance Project to help those fleeing.

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