The three former presidents are backing a new coalition of interest groups, corporations, to help Afghans settle in the US.
Three former US presidents – Republican George W Bush and Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have united behind a new group focused on supporting refugees from Afghanistan settling in the United States after the recent US withdrawal.
The former US leaders and their wives will be part of Welcome.US, a coalition of advocacy groups, US companies and other leaders that kicks off Tuesday, Welcome.US said in a statement.
The coalition said it will help the tens of thousands of Afghans fleeing their country as part of the Biden administration’s evacuation to resettle in the United States by mobilizing support and volunteers.
Many of the refugees have said they would have been in danger if they had remained in Afghanistan under the Taliban after working with US and allied forces or with US and international organizations in the midst of 20 years of war.
Bush launched the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC. The war continued under President Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, until the US withdrawal on August 31.
“Thousands of Afghans stood on the front lines with us to fight for a safer world, and now they need our help. We are proud to support Welcome.US and its work to help Afghan families settle and build new lives,” George W Bush and his wife Laura said in the statement. “We stand ready to show our new Afghan neighbors and the wider world how a welcoming and generous spirit is the backbone of what makes our country so great.”
Representatives for Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, were not immediately available for comment by Reuters news agency.
The council also has the support of more than 280 people and entities, including U.S. companies such as Microsoft Corp, Starbucks Corp, CVS Health Corp, and AirBnB Inc, as well as numerous nonprofits, veterans groups, and resettlement agencies.
Several Republican and Democratic current and former governors and mayors are also involved, as are Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini and US General Stanley McCrystal, who led US and NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2009-2010. A number of US state and local leaders have said they would welcome refugees into their communities, though immigration in parts of the country continues to cause division.
Tens of thousands of refugees have been flown out of Afghanistan in recent weeks in a hasty withdrawal that has met with sharp criticism. Members of Congress on Monday and Tuesday questioned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the withdrawal.
Republicans have expressed concern that Afghans arriving in the US have not undergone security screening and that some may not have identity documents.
The administration of Democratic President Joe Biden is working to accommodate as many as 50,000 refugees on military bases in the United States. Others remain in processing centers near US airports where they landed, and more evacuees are in US facilities abroad. Meanwhile, flights from Afghanistan to the United States have been suspended due to a measles outbreak.
Biden has tapped separate veteran diplomat Lee Wolosky, who previously served under Bush and Obama, to coordinate their resettlement efforts with the White House and the National Security Council.
Republican former President Donald Trump — who lost Biden’s re-election and has criticized the way his successor handled the withdrawal after Trump made a pact with the Taliban to leave — was not listed as part of Welcome.US. Former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, who is 96 and has had a range of health problems in recent years, was also not listed.