After announcing that there will only be four more shows inside the “blank void” he’s been broadcasting from during the pandemic, John Oliver kicked off the latest Last Week Tonight by taking aim at the Biden administration’s failure to protect Afghan interpreters working for the U.S. military ahead of their Aug. 31 deadline to pull out of the country—for the first time in 20 years.
“Since 2014, at least 300 Afghans who served as interpreters have been murdered by the Taliban, according to No One Left Behind, a veteran-led nonprofit devoted to helping Afghan and Iraqi interpreters,” reported NBC News. And with the Taliban advancing on various Afghan strongholds ahead of the deadline, the estimated “18,000 Afghans who worked with U.S. troops as interpreters, translators or in other positions” and are eligible for special immigrant visas—totaling 53,000 people when including their families—are in grave danger while waiting on the Biden administration to grant them these special visas so that they may escape. Many have been killed or received death threats.
“This is a situation Biden’s hair should be on fire about,” argued Oliver. “Because the fact is, there are thousands of Afghans who helped U.S. troops during the war who badly need to be evacuated because the Taliban very much want to kill them… and I will say, publicly, Biden has been sending some encouraging messages.”
He then threw to a clip of President Biden promising, “Our message to those women and men is clear: There is a home for you in the United States, if you so choose, and we will stand with you—just as you stood with us.”
“Oh, well, that sounds great!” Oliver rather sarcastically exclaimed. “Although the ‘if they so choose’ part is doing a lot of work, because it’s clearly not so much their choice as it is ours. We are the ones in charge of the process.”
With that, Oliver looked back on the first season of Last Week Tonight, where the show covered how much of a nightmare even applying for a special immigrant visa to come to the U.S. can be, with some Afghan interpreters waiting years—only to have their applications be rejected over and over again for unexplained reasons.
“And the administration may point to the fact that this month, 2,500 Afghans have been flown in stages to an Army base in Virginia, and that they’re negotiating with countries like Qatar and Kuwait to house Afghans at military bases while they await visa approval, but so far, a tiny percentage of the people in the pipeline have been evacuated. And the fact that we are just scrambling now for a plan is inexcusable when we’ve had 20 years to develop one, and for around half that time, Biden was in the White House.”