U.S. Rep. Jason Crow on Monday led a bipartisan group of fellow veterans, lawmakers, and advocacy organizations calling on the Biden administration to pull out all the stops to evacuate Afghans from Kabul as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.
"The bottom line is we have to get folks to safety," said Crow, a Centennial Democrat and Army Ranger combat veteran who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We have time to still do the right thing, but we have to do it today. That is our message. So let's get it done."
Crow was joined by House Republicans and Democrats, including lawmakers who have co-sponsored legislation with him to speed processing of special immigrant visas, made available to Afghans who have served as interpreters and filled other positions aiding the United States during the 20-year war.
They said the Biden Administration must secure both the military and commercial sides of Kabul's main airport and allow Afghans to stay at the facility until they can be flown to safety.
"We have the means, we have the ability as the United States of America," Crow said. "But we must have the will. That is the simple message."
U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, said the choice facing the American government is stark.
"The question here is whether this will be Saigon or Dunkirk," he said. "Are we going to leave people behind like we did in South Vietnam, or are we going to hold the beach until everyone is taken off the beach? I hope that it's the latter."
U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz, a Florida Republican, called on U.S. authorities in Kabul to do what's necessary to get Afghans to safety.
"The State Department cannot be in the position of giving people a death sentence over typos or the wrong forms," he said. "The very documentation they need to prove that they stood with us is documentation that will get them killed if found at their homes."
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said there will be time to analyze how the Taliban took control so quickly but stressed the urgency facing Afghans fleeing the new regime.
"We've all been watching the tragic and horrific situation unfolding in Afghanistan, and there will be plenty of time to assess how this happened and what went wrong. But our focus today and the days ahead needs to be squarely on saving lives," she said.
Taliban control threatens many Afghans, Albright said — not just those who worked directly for the U.S. government and military, but also women's rights advocates, journalists, anti-corruption crusaders and those working to advance democracy.
"Their lives are now imperiled by the Taliban's advance, and they need to be evacuated from the country before it's too late," Albright said.
"The Untied States has a moral responsibility and a national security interest in ensuring the protection of these Afghan allies as well as those who directly supported our military mission."