President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill aimed at providing aid to US citizens returning from Afghanistan into a law, amid criticism from Republicans over America’s chaotic withdrawal from Kabul.
Under the "Emergency Repatriation Assistance for Returning Americans Act," $10 million in emergency funds per year for two consecutive years will be provided for US citizens returning from Afghanistan to settle back into their lives.
The legislation was passed by the US Senate on Tuesday after it was cleared by the House of Representatives. Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate session in a "pro forma" event as lawmakers were reportedly out of Washington. The bill was passed by unanimous consent in a nearly empty Senate chamber, Reuters reported.
Although the House was in recess, about 30 Republicans held a moment of silence during the session to honour the soldiers killed in Kabul on 26 August. At least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US troops were killed in multiple bombings outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The terror outfit Islamic state's eastern wing Isis-K, which considers both the Taliban and the US its enemy, took the responsibility for the attack.
Over 1,23,000 people, including 6,000 American citizens have been airlifted out of Afghanistan since 14 August, according to Pentagon. However, at least 100-200 US citizens were left behind when the last Boeing C-17 Globemaster took off from Kabul before dawn on Tuesday, marking the end of Washington's 20-year-long war with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Defending his decision to hastily end the war, Mr Biden on Tuesday said he was not going to “extend the forever war, and I was not extending the forever exit”.
"Let me be clear. Leaving August the 31st is not due to an arbitrary deadline; it was designed to save American lives. I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America," he said from the White House addressing the nation.
Mr Biden suggested that staying in Afghanistan no longer served America's purpose as the main accused behind the 9/11 attacks Osama bin Laden was already killed. "We delivered justice to bin Laden on 2 May 2011, over a decade ago. Al Qaeda was decimated. We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war," he added.
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