Updated: Jun 13
State Department tight-lipped on the evacuation plan
Guam stands ready to accommodate the Afghan allies should the Biden administration decide to relocate them to the island, but Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero asked that the territorial government be included in the decision-making process.
"I want to make certain, as the governor of Guam, that these decisions reflect the best interests of our people," Leon Guerrero said in a letter to President Joe Biden.
"Due to the gravity and urgency of this matter, I would like to speak with you soon," Leon Guerrero wrote.
The Biden administration remains tight-lipped on the details of the evacuation plan.
"Our efforts are focused on ensuring that the system functions quickly but is also consistent with the U.S. Security and other (visa) application requirements," the State Department said in an email.
“While we remain focused on the peace process, we also have a commitment to Afghans who served the U.S. government at great personal risk to themselves and their families, and we are processing qualified special immigrant visa applications as quickly as we possibly can,” the State Department said.
Congressional members and advocates have suggested that Guam be considered as a temporary site for Afghan translators who are awaiting their special immigrant visas to be processed. The Afghans, who were employed by the U.S. military, are facing threats from the Taliban.
The schedule for the U.S. forces' withdrawal from Afghanistan nears, but the Biden administration has yet to disclose the relocation plans for the translators.
"I write to commend your decision to end our nation’s longest war and finally bring home our brave men and women serving in Afghanistan," the governor said. "This decision signifies turning a new corner in foreign policy and our nation’s return to leadership in international diplomacy."
She noted that Guam has always stood ready to serve as a safe and secure route for this type of humanitarian effort.
"And today, it is no different. I assure you that my administration is prepared to assist in executing your plans on this matter should Guam be chosen," the governor said.
"If such a decision is made, I respectfully ask that I be part of critical discussions concerning Guam’s role and any related task force should one be established."
Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes echoed the governor’s request for the Biden administration to seek Guam’s input on the plan.
“Just like the Teddy Rosevelt, Guam will always extend the spirit of Inafa’maolek. I will be meeting with some of the NGOs who are pushing for this nationally on Thursday and I echo our governor’s sentiments that should Guam be called to serve, allow us to have a say,” Muna Barnes said.
“We want to make sure our allies have an easy transition and I think it’s important that our government stakeholders are brought to the table so that we can execute this mission successfully.”
The State Department said the U.S. remains deeply committed to Afghanistan and will use full diplomatic, economic and assistance toolkit to support the peaceful, stable future the Afghan people want and deserve.
“And we will continue to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in securing their country,” the State Department said.
It said the United State’s ultimate goal is to end four decades of conflict through a just and durable political settlement.
“We continue to urge the parties to engage in serious negotiations and reach an agreement on a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. It is in no one’s interest for Afghanistan to return to civil war,” the State Department said.
“The State Department takes seriously our role in working with the interagency to manage the (special immigrant visa) program and our responsibility to process applications as quickly as possible.”