Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Mike Waltz have urged President Joe Biden to support the creation of a “humanitarian safe zone” for Americans left behind in Afghanistan.
Waltz, a Republican who represents Florida’s 6th congressional district, issued a joint statement with Graham on Friday that also called on Biden to designate the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization.
The lawmakers’ statement comes following an attack near Kabul airport on Thursday that killed 13 U.S. troops and over 100 Afghans amid the ongoing evacuation operation.
Graham and Waltz said: “After speaking with Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh and representatives of Ahmad Massoud, we are calling on the Biden Administration to recognize these leaders as the legitimate government representatives of Afghanistan.”
Massoud is the leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF).
“We ask the Biden Administration to recognize that the Afghan Constitution is still intact, and the Afghan Taliban takeover is illegal,” the statement said.
“These leaders chose to stay and fight for the freedoms of the Afghan people and oppose extremism. They have established a safe haven in the Panjshir Valley for Americans left behind, our allies, and those seeking freedom from Afghan Taliban rule.
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“They will also be on the front lines in the fight against global Islamic Extremism, which will continue to plot attacks against the West in the wake of our withdrawal from the region.”
Saleh appointed himself acting president of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani left the country ahead of the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul on August 15. There is no indication yet that the U.S. intends to support him.
Panjshir has been a major center of resistance to the Taliban as the Islamic group rapidly took over Afghanistan in recent weeks. There are reportedly several thousand NRF fighters in the valley about 30 miles from Kabul determined to resist the Taliban.
“We call on President Biden to designate the Afghan Taliban as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and we urge him to publicly support Congressional efforts to stand with our friends in the Panjshir Valley who will serve as a bulwark against regional terror,” Waltz and Graham’s statement concluded.
Writing on Twitter on Friday, Waltz pressed the issue: “Pres. Biden gave away everything we had in Afghanistan & our local allies are being hunted down. All we have left is VP @AmrullahSaleh2 ,@AhmadMassoud01 & the Panjshir Valley safe zone. Biden must stand with those that stand with America and oppose terrorism.”
On Thursday, Graham called on Biden to retake Bagram Air Base, which was abandoned in July – a decision that has become the focus of major criticism.
“I urge the Biden Administration to reestablish our presence in Bagram as an alternative to the Kabul airport so that we do not leave our fellow citizens and thousands of Afghan allies behind. It is not a capability problem, but a problem of will,” the senator tweeted.
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