Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—released the following statement today regarding the ongoing situation in Afghanistan:
“At the onset, our original mission in Afghanistan was clear and attainable: stamping out the Al Qaeda training camps, and holding perpetrators of the horrific September 11 attacks accountable. But as soon as the Bush administration set its sights on completely remaking Afghanistan, the mission became unachievable.
“In 2010, I traveled to Afghanistan to learn more from local leaders about the conditions on the ground. From military leaders, I heard about force deployment, supply lines, and improved military tactics and training. The argument—year after year—was that the timeline for the Afghan security forces to be self-sustaining was just months away. But from the diplomats and analysts I heard a different story: a story about how key elements for success were deeply damaged by systemic challenges that included an incredibly incompetent government, massive corruption that sapped the momentum from every initiative, and the unsolvable conundrum that America’s presence and support delegitimized the government and fortified the determination and the passion of the Taliban. These systemic challenges illuminate the gut-wrenching truth that America cannot decide Afghanistan’s fate, and that no amount of American blood or treasure could have altered the course of this unsustainable conflict.
“We cannot understate the courage and valor of the U.S. service members who stepped up at the request of their government to attempt to establish a republic in Afghanistan. And I am deeply grateful to our brave service members who are now working tirelessly to help Americans safely evacuate Afghanistan, and hope that every family touched by this conflict will be reunited as quickly as possible. We must also do everything we can to help the thousands of Afghans, especially women and girls, who at great personal risk helped the U.S. effort and sought to build a more democratic and inclusive country. I am praying for them and their families, and call upon my colleagues and America’s partners around the world to open our doors to them so that they may find safety. That effort must include securing safe passage for SIV and P2 holders who cannot reach Kabul; immediately evacuating our Afghan partners who have already gone through a rigorous vetting process through their relationship with U.S. government and U.S.-based NGOs; granting temporary protected status for Afghans currently in the U.S.; creating a specific humanitarian parole category for women leaders; and expanding the P2 designation for journalists to freelancers, contractors, and stringers.
“I also hope that this tragic situation underscores for Congress the importance of reasserting our constitutional authorities regarding war powers. We must create the processes and safeguards necessary to ensure that military operations are considered with every due diligence. Only then will we avoid protracted, costly wars that end in unceremonious and chaotic withdrawals.”