Intelligence assets who worked for the CIA claim to be the latest targets for assassination. As the deadline for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, Biden administration officials and top lawmakers are doing everything they can to recover a vulnerable group of Afghans: those who served as CIA operatives throughout the country’s two-decade war.
The CIA reportedly used Afghan spies to gather covert intelligence on the Taliban and al Qaeda, promising to safeguard them in exchange. However, many spies, whose work for the United States became public knowledge in Afghanistan in certain cases, now face the threat of death.
Translators, interpreters and other Afghans, who worked with the U.S. government, are still eligible for a special visa that lets them to seek asylum in the Land of the Free. However, the application requires them to show proof of engagement.
Afghans who spy for the United States sometimes lack the necessary documents due to the confidential nature of their employment. Even translators, who successfully proved they worked for the military, had to wait several years for their paperwork to be processed.
Democrat and Republican leaders from the Senate Intelligence Committee recently expressed concern about lengthy wait times to President Joe Biden. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stressed the United States must not abandon these Afghans.
“Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence
community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners
about the United States’s reliability and trustworthiness,” they said in a statement. “It would also be a stain on our national conscience.”
The senators did not say which intelligence agencies they were referring to. However, a committee source confirmed with Foreign Policy the request was related to Afghans who worked as CIA assets.
“[The committee] engaged intelligence officials at the very highest levels to discuss the administration’s plans for protecting those who served alongside our intelligence officers in Afghanistan,” the source said according to the publication.
BL understands the senators have been working behind the scenes with the administration to find a solution for weeks.
As the Taliban seized control of vast parts of the nation in recent months, a different U.S. official revealed the CIA was extensively involved in safeguarding Afghan partners. This was a “huge priority.”
The anonymous official claimed the CIA has helped the U.S. government verify the identity of Afghans seeking special immigrant visa for years. The agency is now assisting its local assets through the immigration process.
The White House National Security Council has also participated in this effort, according to the White House.
“We are aware of this issue and taking appropriate steps in accordance with the law to ensure that applications by Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas are being completely and fully evaluated,” a council representative said according to the publication.
The House recently criticized the Biden administration in a July 22 bill that proposes additional visas for vulnerable Afghan friends and speeds-up the approval process. The bill will be sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
Biden wants the U.S. to fully withdraw troops before September 11, the 20th anniversary of World Trade Center attacks that led the United States to invade Afghanistan during 2001. The Taliban now controls almost half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers, up from 81 in June according to U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley.
The government previously confirmed about 2,500 Afghans had mostly completed the rigorous visa processing procedure. They will arrive at the Fort Lee army installation in Virginia shortly.
However, BL does not know how many–if any–of those Afghans actually worked for the CIA. It is also unknown how many Afghans participated in CIA operations throughout the war.
CIA Director William Burns confirmed the agency will “retain [its] capability” to collect intelligence, and oppose any al Qaeda attempts to regain control, according to National Public Radio.
Warner and Rubio are concerned the “rate of departure and the fast deterioration in security” in Afghanistan “does not align” with the visa processing timetable.
“[It is] a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline,” they said in the statement. “We ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) has long advocated for additional visas for Afghans who assisted the United States during the war. She urged intelligence agencies to engage with other elements of the government and help grant more visas.
“The intelligence community’s cooperation in processing SIVs not only helps ensure our allies’s safety—it also safeguards our national security down the line,” she said according to Foreign Policy. “Our local partners around the world must know they can count on the United States to uphold its promise when they support a U.S. mission in any capacity.”