Afghan allies' pleas for help amid President Joe Biden's bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban's takeover of the country have gone unread by the Biden administration, a new report from the State Department's inspector general found.
The State Department established the National Visa Center's Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to help get stranded Afghan allies out of the country once the U.S. military pulled out . The inspector general's report found that in May 2022, almost nine months after the withdrawal, the SIV program's main email inbox had 325,000 unread messages, the Washington Times reported.
"In [the National Visa Center], the application backlog is related to opening emails sent to NVC’s Afghan SIV email account," the inspector general told the Times. "As of May 2022, the email account had over 325,000 unread messages, and OIG observed that NVC staff were still opening unread emails dated from August 2021."
About 300,000 potential immigrants are waiting on the State Department to solve its backlog of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa. The department's backlog is the latest blunder by the Biden administration in handling the Afghan withdrawal, Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.
"This report outlines exactly what I have seen with my own eyes in my office’s efforts to help our Afghan partners who are still trapped in the country," McCaul told the Times. "Some of our cases involve people who submitted their SIV application over a year ago who still haven’t received even an application number."
In August, former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called Biden's pullout a "slap in the face" to every combat veteran that has "left the world less safe."
The State Department, in a September filing, said it would clear the backlog by the end of October. Its inbox had 140,175 unread messages from "potential applicants" at the end of August. An official for the department did not answer when the Times asked if it was still on track, but it defended the program's efforts.
"The department will continue to ensure Afghan SIV applications are processed as quickly as possible in accordance with statutory requirements, while continuing to safeguard U.S. national security," the official said.
"These delays and dysfunctions, over several administrations, are the reasons so many vulnerable Afghan allies languished in Afghanistan in the first place," said Mario Marquez, director of national security for the American Legion. "Corrective actions that would significantly reduce the email backlog must be put to action immediately, as every day that an Afghan and their family receive no action literally increases the risk to their lives."