Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi Criticizes U.S. Actions In Afghanistan
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Many voices in Congress have been critical of what the world has seen in Kabul. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, represents the 8th District of Illinois and serves on the House Committee on Intelligence, joins us now.
Congressman, thanks for being with us.
RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Hey. Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: I don't know how else to put this. Does America look like a great power this week?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: No. I think that this was a completely avoidable situation, with regard to the nature of the pullout and actually the nature of, you know, evacuating Americans as well as our Afghan allies. And the situation is marked by chaos and a lack of transparency. And it's got to change.
SIMON: Does what the administration say about their surprise at the rapid victory of the Taliban mate with what you heard in any intelligence briefings?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that - you know, my strong impression is that there's a huge intelligence failure here. And - but the one thing I have to say, Scott, is we knew all along, at least for one year and certainly during the duration of the Trump - the Biden administration and for many months of the Trump administration, that we had to get out all of the special immigrant visa people. These are the SIV folks who helped our forces in Afghanistan. We knew that we had to get out a lot of people who fall into other categories of people who are vulnerable. And yet here we are. We're caught flat-footed.
I'll just give you one example. We have a family that was told to come to the airport yesterday. They had all their papers. They had their documents. And they had a pass to enter the airport. And they were turned away at the gate.
For others, it's nearly impossible to get to the airport. And doing so exposes them to grave harm because basically, they will expose themselves to the Taliban. And then for others, for instance, translators for media organizations, they fall into a category of visas where the U.S. government is asking them to apply from a third-party country, which is crazy. How do you get out of Afghanistan to apply for that type of visa category? So this is what we're up against right now.
SIMON: May I ask, have you, have your congressional employees found U.S. government officials and offices helpful?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: There's a lack of transparency, Scott. When we're trying to get answers to the status of applications, we're being met with silence. It takes more than 24 hours to even get an acknowledgement that someone's materials have been submitted. I have to say, the process itself for applying for these, for instance, the SIV category, is just Byzantine. It's a 14-step process.
Heck, it takes, you know, 12 steps to apply - or to get through Alcoholics Anonymous.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Why it would take 14 steps for these allies who are risking everything to help Americans to come to the U.S. is beyond me.
SIMON: Yeah. Congressman, should there be a congressional investigation as to what happened, what fell down, as there was after 9/11, January 6, Benghazi?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think there has to be oversight. There has to be accountability for what's occurred. In what form that takes, I'm not sure. But certainly, Congress has to play a role in this.
Remember, we appropriated on a bipartisan basis at least $1 billion extra, I believe, this year in an emergency supplemental funding bill to deal with the backlogs on the SIV process. And so we have a responsibility to look into what the heck happened here. But, you know, there's still time now to get these people out. And I hope that the USCIS and State Department and the administration show some hustle and get these people to third countries and process them there and get them out of harm's way ASAP.
SIMON: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, 8th Congressional District - thank you so much for being with us, sir.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.