GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) is “glad” U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan but remains concerned about the safety of Afghans who served alongside American soldiers and now face imminent danger as the Taliban gains ground.
“I supported the withdrawal when President Trump announced it towards the end of his term. And I strongly supported it when President Biden announced he was continuing that policy,” says Meijer.
Meijer spoke with FOX 17 days after President Joe Biden announced plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end August, ending the country’s longest war ahead of the original September 11th deadline.
“This was never a conflict that was going to end in a positive way through our military engagement. This is at its core, a political dispute, it is being levied through a violent conflict lens, but at its core is political and needs to find a negotiated political settlement. That will be the only way that we resolve the conflict in Afghanistan,” Meijer said.
Meijer, a U.S. Army and Iraq War veteran, is also calling on the Biden Administration to not just expedite troop withdrawal, but also expedite the evacuation of Afghans who helped the US military and now remain in harm’s way. The Taliban claims to now control 85% of Afghan territory and have been targeting the U.S.'s Afghan allies.
“These were Afghans who were going out on patrols, some of whom returned fire and save the lives of American service members. Some of them were shot and injured in the course of serving as translators as interpreters, many of whom now have a target on their backs because they were either helping us in intelligence ways, or they were serving as translators during interrogations,” Meijer explained
The State Department says evacuating them is a priority, "Those who helped us are not going to be left behind," said President Joe Biden, but more than 10,000 are still waiting on VISA approval to get allowed into the United States. Other plans are not yet known.
“The Biden administration needs to mobilize a mass evacuation,” Meijer said. “We need these individuals to be moved to either a US territory like Guam for processing, or to a third country and we need this to start happening immediately.”
“A lot of these individuals are still being targeted or still being killed. And as things get more complex, as the security situation continues to deteriorate, if we find ourselves in a position, we're having to go pluck these individuals out of refugee camps in Pakistan or Iran, shame on us. We have the ability to do this, now. There's no reason why we should be delaying and dragging our feet for bureaucratic hurdles,” Meijer added
The end of the United States’ 20-year involvement in Afghanistan is also putting in perspective AUMFs, or the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which has put troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the globe without congressional debate.
“[The 2001 AUMF] in is approaching 20 years old, that was originally intended for Al-Qaeda and associated forces and has been used to fight conflicts in 19 countries on three continents,” Meijer said. “It's been used against entities that didn't exist on 9/11, it's been used against entities that were fighting Al-Qaeda. It’s been stretched beyond any comprehension,” Meijer explained.
Repealing outdated AUMFs has been a top legislative priority for Meijer, his bill to repeal a 1957 AUMF recently passed the Democratic-led House.
Meijer hopes repealing them will help to hold lawmakers accountable before Americans are sent into combat.
“What I strongly view is that first step towards Congress reprising that authority, and frankly, taking back its responsibility, and not just delegating it, washing its hands and saying, you know, we'd rather sit around fundraising and going on cable news than having to make the hard questions, then having to cast a vote that puts men and women American soldiers in harm's way.”