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​​Opinion: Did Trump help set the stage?

Troye says that, under former President Donald Trump, the anti-refugee zealot Stephen Miller and others restricted the Special Immigrant Visa program (SIV), which was supposed to let Afghans who aided the US qualify for travel to the US with their families. In recent Twitter posts, she recounted that despite entreaties from many to protect these Afghan allies, including James Mattis, then-secretary of defense, prejudice from others against the refugees won.
“There were cabinet mtgs about this during the Trump Admin where Stephen Miller would peddle his racist hysteria about Iraq & Afghanistan,” wrote Troye. “He & his enablers across gov’t would undermine anyone who worked on solving the SIV issue by devastating the system.” She continued that “Trump had FOUR years-while putting this plan in place-to evacuate these Afghan allies who were the lifelines for many of us who spent time in Afghanistan. They’d been waiting a long time. The process slowed to a trickle.”

Miller’s wife, Katie Miller, who is Pence’s former spokeswoman questioned the validity of Troye’s claims in a tweet. “What meeting? Who were the attendees? Where did this ‘meeting’ happen?” Miller wrote. “It didn’t happen. Stephen did not even work on SIV policy,” she wrote.

Still, today as the chaos at Kabul’s airport prompts criticism of the Biden administration, Troye’s perspective reminds us that Trump and his former team cannot claim they would have done better. The prior administration, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, negotiated with the Taliban to set America’s withdrawal and facilitated the release from prison of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and thousands of fighters. At the same time, according to Troye, Miller smothered efforts to aid the many Afghans who could face reprisals for their past service to the US.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 20,000 Afghans are in the process of seeking approval and as many as 70,000 are eligible to apply. Clear data on total Afghan admissions to the US is hard to find but a recent Congressional Research Service report on programs for both Iraqis and Afghans found a sharp decline of immigrant visas granted to translators, interpreters and dependents. In the last year of the Obama administration, 223 visas were issued. In 2020 just 77 were given visas — the lowest since visa eligibility expanded in 2007.
Miller was hardly alone in terms of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the administration, but Troye’s account of Miller’s role, aligns with his record of cruel regard for refugees in general and his attitude toward Afghans in particular. A key advocate of the Trump policy that separated asylum-seeking children and parents at the US border, Miller’s career as an anti-immigrant fanatic led his biographer Jean Guerrero, to title her book about him: “Hatemonger.” His recent comments about Afghan asylum-seekers seems to support her choice. She says that Miller is a “true ideologue” who sees political advantage in promoting white nationalist ideas.
The white nationalist fear of immigrants and refugees might relate to a rather paranoid concept called White replacement theory, which posits the idea that the US must reject non-white newcomers because they will change the country in some terrible way. Espoused by the likes of Fox New host Tucker Carlson, this fearmongering concept has been used against immigrants for generations.
Miller nodded toward this theory on a recent Fox News appearance when he said, “Resettling [Afghans] in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis, it’s about accomplishing an ideological objective: to change America.”
Fear of White replacement has been a recurring theme in anti-immigration efforts for generations. The popular 20th century book, “The Passing of the Great Race,” complained that America’s population was being diluted by the arrival of immigrants from outside the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic regions of Europe. Its author, the renowned Madison Grant, warned that because of its asylum policies, America faced a “racial abyss.”
Although successive waves of immigration have enriched the country and given the lie to nativist rhetoric, the fear that energized Madison Grant was never extinguished. It can be heard in Miller’s argument last week against an assertive effort to save those who helped the United States in Afghanistan. “Bottom line: If we are not careful, all we could have to show for 20 years in Afghanistan is a failed terror state, a humanitarian catastrophe, and an immigration policy that has brought the threat of jihadism inside our shores,” Miller tweeted.
For her part, Troye reiterated her position on CNN’s “New Day.” “If you look at the numbers on a yearly basis, you’ll see that a lower and lower number of people get approved and the visas don’t get issued.” She said that Miller’s “anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric” was “absolutely disgusting.”
Days after fanning fears of pro-American Afghans bringing terrorism to the US, Miller struck a completely different note. He used an opportunity to respond to Troye’s claim as a way to bash the Democrats now in the White House. “The sole reason that anyone is stranded in Afghanistan is because Joe Biden stranded them there in the single most imbecilic act of strategic incompetence in human history,” he said in a statement to the New York Times. “All the desperate lying liars in the world can’t change that one inescapable fact.”
The last bit about liars was ostensibly a swipe at his former colleague, Troye, who, having fought in vain to temper the worst of Trumpism, seems determined that the facts be known as the consequences she feared the most come to pass. Boxed in by Trump’s deal with the Taliban and seemingly surprised by the former Afghan government’s sudden collapse, Biden’s refugee project was overwhelmed with tragic results. However, a rapid increase in the effort means that 28,000 have already been airlifted to safety.
As Miller offers partisan smokescreens and Trump lambastes Biden with demagogic claptrap — he said Biden should “resign in disgrace” — Troye’s version of events is not the only one that puts blame on the Trump administration. Another Trump administration insider, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, recently told CNN that he warned Trump that his determination to withdraw US troops could cause “a number of things play out, which are unfolding right now in many ways.”

In time, we will get a fuller picture of the events that led to the crisis in Kabul as thousands of Afghans seek to flee the Taliban. For that perspective we will have witnesses like Troye and Esper, not the likes of Miller and Trump, to thank.

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