By CBS Baltimore Staff

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen released statements stressing the importance of getting American personnel safely home from Afghanistan as the Taliban takes over and urges President Biden to allow more Afghan refugees to come to America.

“What is happening in Afghanistan today is tragic. It is a dire humanitarian crisis,” Cardin said in a statement released Monday. “The gains we have made throughout the years, particularly regarding the rights of women and children, are going to be lost.”

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After more than 20 years of trying to support the new government and armed forces in Afghanistan, the withdrawal of American forces “was a long time coming and something the American people wanted to see happen,” Cardin said. But he added that the quick collapse of the Afghan army in its fight against the Taliban “has been astonishing and is a deep disappointment.”

Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the primary goal now is to safely return American personnel home. He also called on the Biden administration to expand eligibility in refugee programs and expedite applications.

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“Given the U.S. role in the war in Afghanistan, the United States has a moral responsibility to accept any Afghan seeking refuge that it can,” he said. “The U.S. government should facilitate evacuation flights for all vulnerable groups in Afghanistan who seek asylum and safe haven in the United States or beyond.”

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Van Hollen said asylum should be extended to Afghan citizens who worked with the U.S. military as well as people who worked with the U.N. and other organizations to promote literacy, women’s empowerment and other causes.

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“We cannot abandon these people. That cannot be our legacy,” he said. “We must do everything in our power to act decisively to get these people out and work with all parties who are able to assist in this effort in the critical days and weeks ahead.”

CBS Baltimore Staff