RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Sen. Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, addressed concerns about the deadly evacuation from Afghanistan on Monday.
The press conference was held at the Richmond International Airport and was mostly focused on ongoing projects there and new infrastructure funding. However, in light of the deadly bombings at the Kabul airport today, Warner spent part of his time addressing questions on Afghanistan as well.
Similarly, Gov. Ralph Northam spoke to the situation in Afghanistan while at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for an immunization awareness event.
Warner said in the last 10 days, the United States has worked to get 90,000 people out of Afghanistan.
People have been funneling out of the Kabul airport. Right outside that airport is where two suicide bombers and gun men attacked crowds today. The bombings killed 12 U.S. service members and left 15 others injured.
“When we sign up to serve in the military, we know that it’s a very dangerous job and we also know that we live in a very dangerous world,” Northam said. “My heart goes out to the soldiers and their families.”
Warner said there was “plenty of intelligence” leading up to the attack that ISIS-K, the group that claimed the bombings, was going to take some kind of action.
Warner explained that ISIS-K is a violent terrorist group that see the Taliban and the United States both as enemies. He said the Taliban needs to immediately take action against ISIS-K following this attack.
He calls the current dealings between the United States and the Taliban an “uneasy truce.” While Warner said he does not trust the Taliban at all he mentioned that it had been over a year since a U.S. service member had been killed in Afghanistan.
Still the situation is delicate, he said if people are still on the ground on Aug. 31, the withdrawal date needs to be pushed back.
“My hope is that we will get some more time as we kind of resecure the airport” Warner said.
He said everything possible is being done to make sure the Afghans evacuating to America are not any kind of threat. While there is no full guarantee, Warner said they are not prepared to “leave literally thousands of people who defended our troops.”
“By definition, these people were helping us and on potential hit lists to be killed by the Taliban,” he said.
There are also steps being taken to ensure that everyone traveling does not have COVID-19. All of the refugees are tested before leaving Kabul, tested again during any layovers and then tested for a third time upon arrival in the United States.
Warner said many refugees are also already vaccinated.
“I wish all Virginians would get vaccinated at the same rate the Afghan refugees are doing,” he said.
Upon arrival in the United States some of the refugees will be headed for either Fort Lee or Fort Pickett for processing. According to Northam, so far nearly 11,000 people have flown into Virginia to be housed at military bases.
The facilities are just a waystation as people complete the process to obtain their Special Immigrant Visas. Depending on how far along in the process people are they could stay at the forts anywhere between a few days and a couple of weeks.
After processing at the bases, the refugees will move on to host families and host communities around the country.