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A queue outside a German transport plane following the fall of Kabul in mid-August. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

A coalition of organizations still working to evacuate people from Afghanistan met Tuesday with top U.S. national security officials to discuss next steps, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of Afghans are grappling with a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis following the U.S. military and diplomatic pullout on Aug. 31, with reports of targeted assassinations as the Taliban settle scores.

Driving the news: The AfghanEvac Coalition, which represents 120 organizations, met with senior advisers from the National Security Council.

  • The groups are eager for additional resources and continued collaboration with the State Department, Department of Defense and NSC to help people get out of Afghanistan.

What we're watching: The umbrella group was angling for a response to a letter members wrote to the administration, as well as House and Senate leaders.

  • The members didn't receive any concrete commitments but were told their letter caused the Biden administration to "change tack, and has made an impact on their thinking," one attendee told Axios.
  • The coalition members underscored their request that President Biden appoint an "evacuation czar" — with tasking authority, at the interagency level — to lead efforts to bring thousands of at-risk Afghans to safety.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) made the same request to the president two weeks ago.

What they're saying: "This should be led by someone with military and development/diplomacy experience. Someone young, whose career depends on success and is not already retired," said Shawn VanDiver, president of the coalition. "We're confident they'll get to a good place on those things."

  • Attendees also discussed the prospect of increasing the capacity for evacuation and resettlement, including adding third-country "lily pads" for "P1/P2" referred individuals to get out of Afghanistan and to a safe place to complete their processing.
  • The P1/P2 designations were meant to grant certain Afghans and their eligible family members — who do not qualify for the Special Immigrant Visa used by many interpreters and others who assisted U.S. troops — preferred access to the U.S. refugee program.
  • To qualify for P2 status, however, Afghans must get themselves out of Afghanistan — a near-impossible feat given the circumstances.
  • "There's also really no functionally scaled-up programs to interview and adjudicate refugee cases in the countries nearby where people can flee to," said Sunil Varghese, policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Between the lines: The private groups have played a critical role in evacuating tens of thousands of Afghans following the U.S. withdrawal.

Since the end of August, they've been working to get people on the scarce flights out of the country and coordinate refugee resettlement in communities across the U.S.

  • The Biden administration has already evacuated and brought to the U.S. 75,000 Afghans — of which a ratio of more than 2 in 5 are eligible for SIVs because of their or a family member's aid to the U.S. government.
  • But the Department of Homeland Security has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to immigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process.
  • A system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

But, but, but: "We do provide a range of services, even if we don't have a presence there," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday during her daily briefing.

  • Psaki added the administration has “directly assisted” 479 Americans and 450 green-card holders — as well as their immediate families — in leaving Afghanistan since the troop departure.

Go deeper

Jan 11, 2022 - World

Aid group reports major increase in Afghanistan child malnourishment

Health workers check children for signs of malnourishment at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Herat. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty

Health care workers in the Afghan cities of Khost and Herat recorded major increases of severe acute malnutrition among children — 30-fold and 2-fold respectively — between November and December of 2021, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

State of play: Most foreign aid to Afghanistan has stopped flowing since the Taliban took power in August, sanctions are further hampering the economy, and the U.S. has frozen around $8 billion in Afghan Central Bank assets. That's led to a major cash shortage that comes with winter setting in and food prices rising, the IRC reports.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."