State and federal elected officials responded with mixed messages Thursday to the news that 75 Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban will be resettled in Missoula over the coming weeks. Roughly 37,000 Afghan refugees will be coming to other states across the U.S.
The U.S. State Department notified state and local leaders on Wednesday about the number of refugees they should expect. The notification prompted strong statements from Montana politicians, including many who said welcoming Afghan refugees is morally correct after a chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces in July and August.
Gov. Greg Gianforte slammed the Biden administration in a statement Thursday, calling the withdrawal “ill-planned” and “catastrophic.” The process, he said, left American citizens vulnerable and abandoned Afghan allies who supported U.S. troops.
“Montana welcomes our fully-vetted Afghan allies who worked alongside us, have left their homes in the face of the Taliban’s reemerging, merciless terror, and seek freedom and safety,” Gianforte said.
The governor’s message was echoed by Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, both of whom threw their weight behind the resettlement in separate statements Thursday.
“These folks helped save American lives on the battlefield and Montana will welcome them,” Tester wrote.
Through a spokesperson, Daines also critiqued the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal and said he believes in a rigorous vetting process for refugees.
This story was updated Sept. 17, 2021, to include comment from the International Rescue Committee in Missoula.