Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on Thursday hailed the efforts of a human rights organization led by a University of Nebraska medical student in already providing for the evacuation of 6,700 people, including 1,200 Americans, from Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal of military forces.
The Human First Coalition effort has "saved thousands," the Lincoln congressman said during an interview with BBC World Service.
Safi Rauf, who also was interviewed by the BBC, said thousands of endangered Afghans who are members of religious minorities or who helped the U.S. military still remain behind with "their lives in great danger."
The Human First operation is designed to "evacuate people at risk," he said.
Rauf was born in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan and immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. He graduated from high school in Omaha and served as a linguist and cultural adviser in Afghanistan for four years before attending college on the East Coast and enrolling in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He recently deferred his enrollment to the University of Nebraska Medical Center to form Human First.
Included among the evacuees rescued by Human First was an Afghan interpreter who once served as President Joe Biden's translator when he was a senator.
"I am in continual dialogue with neighboring countries to aid in this monumental rescue effort," Fortenberry said.
"I am particularly grateful to Pakistan for their help, and to Albania for hosting a number of refugees.
"It would be helpful if the State Department could now come through and join with courageous organizations on the ground to get remaining Americans and others facing imminent persecution out," the 1st District Republican congressman said.
Fortenberry told the BBC that "the chaotic, incoherent withdrawal (of U.S. military forces) was a gut-punch to America."
But now, Fortenberry said, the goal is to try to save lives, not just voice criticism.
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