RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Virginia is serving as a safe haven for thousands of Afghans as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demand answers on how the Taliban was able to take over the capital city of Kabul so quickly.
U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative who now represents Virginia in Congress, is among those calling for hearings on Capitol Hill.
“What we witnessed this past weekend is not the result of one singular decision but a layering of different decisions and so understanding what in those layers could have been different…will not just help us for the historical record of what happened but frankly in the immediacy of tactically trying to get additional people out of the country,” Spanberger said.
Right now, Spanberger said she has “significant concerns” about our ability to get all of the more than 18,000 Afghan allies who worked alongside the United States throughout the war here unharmed.
“It’s incredibly important that we secure the airport and get as many people out as we possibly can,” Spanberger said. “Certainly it is a tremendous undertaking.”
As the Taliban expands its influence, Spanberger also has concerns about ongoing threat of terrorism in the region, though she said intelligence capabilities have evolved significantly. She said this should be a focus of Congressional hearings as well.
As some describe the situation as a foreign policy failure for President Joe Biden’s Administration, Spanberger defended the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country.
“After 20 years, it has always been an important priority to end our military mission there and bring our troops home and I think that decision can be decoupled from the discussion related to the actual execution,” Spanberger said. “Certainly, it is absolutely tragic and heartbreaking.”
So far, more than 2,000 Afghans have found safe harbor at Virginia’s Fort Lee Army Base.
Gov. Ralph Northam said they’re staying at the base for 5-7 days on average and about 10 percent have plans to remain in the state.
“I’m just glad that Virginia has taken the lead and is welcoming people from Afghanistan that really are in harm’s way,” Northam said. “As many as come here I think we are ready, willing and able to take care of them.”
Northam said the state is prepared to offer education and workforce opportunities to these Afghans, as well as COVID-19 testing through local health departments.
Northam said some people have already reached out to his office to offer them housing, which they’re helping coordinate through the Department of Veterans Affairs.