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A man carries a bloodied child after Taliban fighters use gunfire, whips, sticks and sharp objects to maintain crowd control over thousands of Afghans seeking a way out at the airport in Kabul this week. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times

A bipartisan group of former national security officials, diplomats and lawmakers are urging President Biden to extend the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan beyond Aug, 31 to help evacuate vulnerable Afghans, regardless of their immigration status.

Why it matters: Biden has vowed to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan as long as it takes to get all Americans out but has also said that his goal is to complete that mission by the end of the month.

  • But Biden will be under domestic and international pressure to extend that deadline and do more for Afghan nationals, both those who helped the U.S. military and are awaiting Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), as well as those who worked for nongovernmental organizations to help promote American values.
  • “No flight out of Kabul should have empty seats,” the former officials say.

Driving the news: At the time of publication on Thursday, over 300 former officials signed on to a letter to Biden and Congress, organized by members of the Truman National Security Project, to make “an urgent appeal to save our Afghan allies who we have depended on and whose lives now depend on us.”

  • “As national security and human rights experts who have served as diplomats, humanitarians, frontline civilians, elected officials, and in uniform, we implore you to use every power vested in your offices to act,” the letter reads.
  • Almost 500 former officials had signed the letter by Friday afternoon.
  • The signees, including 53 former ambassadors, are demanding that the administration help people who “share our democratic values” escape from the Taliban.
  • “They are journalists, activists, academics, and colleagues to U.S. and foreign government officials.”

The big picture: In addition to finding and evacuating U.S. citizens throughout the country, Biden is also under pressure to expedite the Afghan SIV applications, with a bipartisan group of 55 senators writing him Thursday, CNN reported.

  • "The Taliban's rapid ascendancy across Afghanistan and takeover of Kabul should not cause us to break our promise to the Afghans who helped us operate over the past twenty years and are counting on us for assistance," the lawmakers wrote.

The bottom line: The Truman National Security Project signees are urging the administration and Congress to help evacuate Afghans, “regardless of their immigration status.”

  • They are also calling for the U.S. government to lead a diplomatic effort to ensure that roads to the airport in Kabul remain safe and increase funding to other countries willing to accept at-risk Afghans.

Go deeper: Exclusive: Inside the White House scramble to protect Afghan allies

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new numbers on how many signatories the letter has.

Go deeper

Sep 20, 2021 - World

Biggest evacuation flight under Taliban rule departs Kabul for Doha

A Qatar Airways aircraft taxis before taking off from Kabul's international airport on Sept. 9. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

A flight carrying more than 230 passengers, including Afghans, Americans and other international civilians departed from Kabul's airport for Qatar's capital, Doha, Sunday, Qatari official Lolwah Al-Khater announced.

Why it matters: A Qatari official told Reuters 236 passengers were on the plane — making it the biggest evacuation flight since the full U.S. military pullout on Aug. 31. It's the fourth airlift by Qatar Airways from Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Go deeper: Afghan refugees headed to 46 states

Sep 18, 2021 - World

Taliban exclude Afghan teen girls from attending school

Afghan female students attend a class in Herat on Aug. 22, 2020. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images.

The Taliban reopened Afghan secondary schools on Saturday for only boys, effectively banning teen girls from receiving a formal education, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The move raises new fears that the Taliban will break public promises and impose severe restrictions on women's rights similar to those implemented in the 1990s.

Sep 19, 2021 - World

Taliban forces Kabul's female city employees out of their jobs

Afghan female activists gather in Kabul to protest against Taliban restrictions on Sept. 19. Photo: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New restrictions issued by the Taliban on Sunday will force the majority of Kabul's female municipal workers out of their jobs, the Associated Press reported.

Why it matters: Despite the Taliban's efforts to cast a more tempered image this time around, vowing to respect women's rights within Islamic "frameworks," the restrictions are the latest sign the group is returning to the oppressive tactics it used when last in power, from 1996 to 2001.