Wednesday, September 22, 2021 4:35 am

Congressional staffs for Sen. Mark Kelly, Rep. Ruben Gallego transform into long-distance rescue teams

Photo: Office of the governor

By Yvonne Wingett Sanchez & Ronald J. Hansen | Arizona Republic

Even before the deadly bombing in Kabul on Thursday morning, two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation had effectively transformed their staffs into long-distance rescue teams.

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., war veterans who are both members of their chamber’s respective Armed Services committees, have worked closely in recent days with the State Department and the Pentagon to evacuate Americans, key Afghans at risk and their family members. 

That effort took on greater urgency Thursday after attacks by a terrorist group killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 60 others.

Citing security concerns and a desperate race against time, neither Kelly nor Gallego could offer specific details of their attempts to help extract people from Afghanistan before the United States’ withdrawal after nearly 20 years.

But their caseworkers and other staff have been on their phones day and night on hundreds of cases as part of a sprawling information-sharing effort to help evacuate Americans and allies. Their efforts to aid evacuations ahead of the Taliban’s Aug. 31 deadline, and the stories of anguish they hear, can take a toll on congressional staffers. 

Over the past weeks, Kelly’s office has received hundreds of requests to assist Americans, Afghans at risk and their family members. Some individuals and families have evacuated successfully.

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