Letter to National Security Advisor Sullivan on Evacuations of Vulnerable Afghans

Letter to National Security Advisor Sullivan on Evacuations of Vulnerable Afghans

On October 28, 2021, over 100 non-governmental organizations, including InterAction, sent the following letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan:

Dear Mr. Sullivan:

We, the undersigned leaders of 103 non-governmental organizations in the international development, humanitarian, peacebuilding, refugee, immigration and resettlement, and veterans affairs sectors write to express our alarm at the estimated tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans who were left behind after the August 31 U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. These individuals played key roles in efforts to strengthen Afghanistan’s government, judiciary, civil society, and media and to protect human rights. For their work, many now face the threat of violent retaliation at the hands of de-facto authorities. Given the urgency of this matter, our community respectfully requests a CEO or Executive-level meeting with you to voice our concerns and hear the Administration’s plans to evacuate and resettle at-risk Afghans who remain in Afghanistan.

We call on the Biden Administration to prioritize their safe evacuation before it is too late. Some of these individuals assisted U.S. and allied armed forces. Others worked for or alongside U.S.-based and funded organizations to secure women’s rights, establish a free press, or provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance to their countrymen and women. All are now bound by their shared fear for their safety. If the White House does not move to evacuate them with haste, it will leave an indelible stain on this Administration’s stated commitment to a foreign policy centered on human rights and its repeated commitments to support at-risk Afghans.

We are disappointed by the Biden Administration’s overly narrow list of priority stakeholders for evacuation, which currently includes only: American citizens, legal permanent residents (LPRs), immediate family members of American citizens and LPRs, U.S. Embassy staff, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants with Chief-of-Mission approval. While these individuals are undoubtedly deserving of U.S. evacuation support, thousands of other Afghans face an immediate need for protection due to their affiliation with the U.S. Government. The failure to prioritize them as well imperils their lives.

We are particularly keen to hear the Administration’s plan to systematically process at-risk Afghans that fall outside of the scope of the SIV program, who have been consistently under-addressed over the past several months. We are especially concerned for those Afghans referred by employers to the Priority-2 (P-2) designation of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The evacuation of these individuals should be seen as no less significant than any other priority evacuees given their work advancing democracy, human rights, and human dignity, and level of risk.

The F.Y. 2022 Continuing Resolution requires the Biden Administration to create a strategy and status on Afghan evacuee resettlement, as well as the Afghan P-2 program, and to create a plan for augmenting personnel needed for refugee processing or humanitarian parole. Below please find critical recommendations to expedite the evacuation and processing of at-risk Afghans for your consideration. These measures, if promptly taken, would make important strides towards restoring viable pathways to safety for at-risk Afghans and their families. We urge the Biden Administration to:

  1. Establish a unified U.S. Government coordinating group for overseas operations to facilitate greater inter-agency coordination and more expeditiously communicate updates to our community. This group should include, at a minimum, the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, Treasury, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
  2. Create a humanitarian parole program for Afghan nationals, at minimum for Afghans with U.S. ties or loved ones already in the United States. The U.S. should provide and process filed applications for humanitarian parole and documentation allowing these individuals to travel to the U.S. Waive any fees associated with requesting and applying for humanitarian parole for Afghan nationals.
  3. Provide travel documents, diplomatic notes, letters of support, or other relevant materials to allow at-risk Afghans to exit Afghanistan and enter “lilypad” countries for processing, and create a mechanism for Afghans in other host countries to enter “lilypads” for processing to the U.S. Many at-risk Afghans do not have valid passports or visas, and the Taliban recently stated they would not allow Afghans to cross the border into third-countries without documentation. As the U.S. government does not currently maintain a diplomatic presence inside Afghanistan, these at-risk Afghans are unable to secure the required documentation. The U.S. must use diplomacy to negotiate safe passage into “lilypad” countries and then onward to U.S. military bases for processing.
  4. Surge resources and personnel to “lilypad” countries, particularly those with U.S. military installations, to scale up and expediently process applications. The U.S. Government must press neighboring countries to open their borders to fleeing Afghan refugees. The U.S. Government must incentivize third countries to provide space, housing, and aid for meeting fleeing Afghans’ basic needs during the requisite processing period.
  5. Provide virtual and expedited screening and processing for all at-risk Afghans, including those who have applied for the SIV, humanitarian parole, and family reunification (such as follow-to-join/I-730) programs, as well as those who are referred to USRAP, including P-1, P-2, and P-3 referrals while in Afghanistan or host countries.
  6. Identify additional pathways to safety for at-risk Afghans who do not qualify for the SIV or the USRAP P-2  program. This includes, but is not limited to, individuals who do not have a verifiable U.S. affiliation and are not known to the U.S. Embassy but who were engaged in activities that make them targets of Taliban reprisals. Such individuals include civil servants, women’s rights advocates, election workers, human rights lawyers, academics, and journalists. We strongly recommend including individuals who worked on U.S.-funded sub-contracts or sub-grants as well.

While Afghanistan sinks into a grave humanitarian crisis, credible reports from international human rights monitors, media organizations, and multilateral bodies indicate that the Taliban is targeting Afghans, including those who have worked with U.S. and allied armed forces and women’s rights activists, with retaliatory killings and violence. If the U.S. does not bring these vulnerable Afghans to safety, it will have failed to uphold its commitment to human rights and turned its back on the very causes of human dignity and freedom it claims to uphold.

The Administration must act now. We look forward to discussing these recommendations with you in the proposed CEO- or Executive-level meeting.


Afghanistan Advocacy Group, Mariam Atash, Founder
Afghan-American Foundation, Haroon Azar, Board Member
Afghan Refugee Relief, Metra Azar-Salem, Executive Director
Afghan Women Leading the Way, Mariam Atash, President/Co-Founder
Afghans For a Better Tomorrow, Arash Azizzada, Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director
Agents of Hope Training &Information Center, Nana Ahmed, Founder/ CEO
Alliance for International Women’s Rights (AIWR), Lisa Herb, President; Executive Director
Alliance for Peacebuilding, Liz Hume, Acting CEO & President
Allied Airlift 21, Mike Jason, Executive Director
American Counterterrorism Targeting and Resilience Institute (ACTRI), Ardian Shajkovci, Director
American Society for Public Administration, Allan Rosenbaum, President
American Veterans Committee, Brandon Powell, President
Amnesty International USA, Paul O’Brien, Executive Director
Amref Health Africa in the USA, Robert Kelty, CEO
Association of Wartime Allies, Kim Staffieri, Executive Director / Co-Founder
Aware Girls, Gulalai Ismail, Chairperson
Bethany Christian Services, Chris Palusky, President & CEO
Black Veterans Project, Richard Brookshire, Board Chair
Boat People SOS (BPSOS), Nguyen Dinh Thang, PhD, CEO & President
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Debra Boudreaux, Executive Director/Executive Vice President
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Karen Musalo, Director
Chicago Refugee Coalition, Alisa M. Roadcup, Executive Director
ChildFund International, Anne Lynam Goddard, President and CEO
Church World Service, Richard Santos, President & CEO
Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Rev. Dr. Sharon G Stanley-Rea, Director
FHI 360, Tessie San Martin, Chief Executive Officer
Freedom House, Michael J. Abramowitz, President
Freedom Now, Maran Turner, Executive Director
Fresh Start Refugee Assistance Center, Neelab Yousafzai, President
Friends Committee on National Legislation, Diane Randall, General Secretary
Ghafoor Foundation, Farhad Ghafoor, President
G.H.O.S.T (NPS-International), Casey Littlejohn, CEO
Global Communities, David A. Weiss, CEO
Global Rights for Women, Cheryl Thomas, Executive Director
Headwaters Relief Organization, Dr. Rebecca Thomley, Chief Executive Officer
Heartland Alliance International, Surita Sandosham, Executive Director
Human Rights and Immigration Law Project, Dina Francesca Haynes, Professor of Law
Human Rights First, Michael Breen, President and CEO
Humanity United, Srik Gopal, Managing Partner
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Fred Tsao, Senior Policy Counsel
Immigrant ARC, Camille J Mackler, Executive Director
InterAction, Sam Worthington, CEO
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Doug Rutzen, President and CEO
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), Sanam Naraghi Anderlini MBE, Founder and CEO
International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere Region, Giselle Carino, CEO
International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Becca Heller, Executive Director
Internews, Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Jeremy Butler, CEO
IREX, Kristin Lord, President and CEO
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director
Jewish Federation Chicago, Lisa Shuger Hublitz, Asst. VP, Federal Govt Affairs, DC Office Director
Justice Action Center, Karen Tumlin, Founder and Director
Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, Polly Byers, Executive Director
Lamia Afghan Foundation, John A. Bradley, Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force (Retired), CEO
Last Mile4D, Mahnaz M Harrison, President and CEO
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO
Military Veterans in Journalism, Zack Baddorf, Executive Director
Mina’s List, Tanya Henderson, Founder and Executive Director
Minority Veterans of America, Lindsay Church, Executive Director
Modern Military Association of America, Jennifer Dane, CEO
National Immigration Forum, Ali Noorani, President & Chief Executive Officer
National Immigration Law Center, Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director
Nooristan Foundation, Alina Atash, President
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) USA, Bernice G. Romero, Executive Director
Objective Zero Foundation, Betsey Mercado, Executive Director
Oxfam America, Abby Maxman, President & CEO
Paloonkey, Michelle Milligan, Interim Executive Director
PATH, Nikolaj Gilbert, President and CEO
Phase Zero Solutions, Inc., Michael B. Williams, CEO
Physicians for Peace, James E. Morgan, CEO
Project C.U.R.E., Douglas Jackson, PhD, JD, President/CEO
Promundo-US, Gary Barker, CEO & President
Refugee Action Network, Jims Porter, Board Chair
RefugeeOne, Jims Porter, Advocacy Director
Refugee Congress, Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director
Refugees International, Eric Schwartz, President
Scholars at Risk Network, Robert Quinn, Executive Director
Service to School, Christine Schwartz, CEO
SLC Consulting, Inc., Steven M. Miska, Founder, CEO
Soldiers’ Angels, Amy Palmer, President & CEO
Street Business School, Devin Hibbard, CEO
Student Veterans of America, Jared Lyon, National President and CEO
Tahirih Justice Center, Archi Pyati, Chief Executive Officer
Talent Beyond Boundaries, Edafe Okporo, US Mobilization Director
Tarjoman Relief, William Felder, Director
Task Force Pineapple, Lyla Kohistany , CEO
The Educators’ Institute for Human Rights (EIHR), Kate Weckesser English, Executive Director
The Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc., Dr. Teferra, President & CEO
The Lamia Afghan Foundation, John A. Bradley, Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force (Retired)
Truman National Security Project, Jenna Ben-Yehuda, President & CEO
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Eskinder Negash, President and CEO
UCSF Health and Human Rights Initiative, Suzanne Barakat, MD, Executive Director
Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director, Senior VP
United Soldiers and Sailors of America, John P. Yori, President
USAHello, Sarah Ivory, US President
Veterans in Global Leadership, Jayson Browder, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors
Village Enterprise, Dianne Calvi, CEO
Water for South Sudan, Lynn Malooly, Executive Director
Weichel & Associates, Kimberly Weichel, President and CEO
With Honor, Rye Barcott, Co-Founder and CEO
Women for Women International, Laurie Adams , Chief Executive Officer
Women Graduates USA, Fay Weber, President
Women’s Refugee Commission, Sarah Costa, Executive Director
World Learning, Carol Jenkins, President and CEO
World Relief, Myal Greene, President / CEO
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