Biden’s government will house 2,500 Afghan interpreters at Virginia’s Fort Lee as they begin evacuations after months of delays and a rise in Taliban threats
- The first group of evacuees includes 700 interpreters and their families
- Afghans, who assisted the US military at their peril, are allowed to complete their visa application processes from base outside Richmond, Virginia
- They are only a small fraction of the roughly 18,000 special immigrant visa applicants who hope to be flown in from Afghanistan as the Taliban gains ground
- About 53,000 relatives of these interpreters are also seeking rescue
- The update comes after Biden said interpreters could be flown to “third countries” to await their visa application process in safety if they choose to
- Operation Allies Refuge was announced after bipartisan pressure to help
The Biden administration is evacuating a small group of Afghan interpreters directly to the US as US troops withdraw from the conflict-ravaged country, the State Department confirmed Monday.
About 2,500 people who have already started applying for special immigrant visas will be temporarily housed at Fort Lee military base outside Richmond, Virginia.
“These are brave Afghans,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price, “who have completed thorough SIV security screenings.”
“They will receive temporary housing and services when they complete the final steps,” he told reporters.
About 700 Afghan interpreters and their families will be temporarily housed at the Fort Lee military base, State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed Monday.
Afghan interpreters and their families who helped the US in their 20-year war will be allowed to stay at the base while they complete the application process.
This first group of 700 interpreters and their families is just a small number of the estimated 18,000 SIV applicants and 53,000 family members waiting to leave Afghanistan.
Many of them face threats to their lives as the Taliban gain more territory amid ongoing clashes with US-backed Afghan forces.
Many interpreters who have assisted the US military during the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan face increasing threats to their lives as the Taliban gains ground. Afghan government security forces in the country have set up checkpoints (seen here) to search people and vehicles ahead of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha
An Afghan security official stands guard at a checkpoint on July 19 to ensure people’s safety amid escalating conflict between government forces and the Taliban
About 300 Afghan translators are believed to have been murdered since 2014, according to the non-profit organization No One Left Behind (pictured during a June 25 protest at the US embassy in Kabul)
The initial evacuation will likely be carried out by civilian chartered aircraft rather than military aircraft.
The operation, called Operation Allies Refuge, will be led by the United States Air Force.
About 300 Afghan translators have been murdered since 2014, according to the non-profit organization No One Left Behind.
The White House promised to begin evacuating Afghans by the end of July as President Biden’s self-imposed September 11 deadline for a full military withdrawal approaches.
Biden said Afghan interpreters and their families can be evacuated “to third countries” if they wish, in comments defending the US withdrawal last week.
Biden said the interpreters and their families could be evacuated “if they want to leave by taking them to third countries” in comments defending the US withdrawal last week.
The administration will prioritize evacuating those who have already started applying for their SIV, a process that could take up to 800 days.
However, the normally lengthy process has seen further delays in the past year due to State Department backlogs, a lack of translators to handle the paperwork and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Taliban announced last week that they had seized a strategic border crossing with Pakistan. Taliban representatives (pictured here on July 18) met with the Afghan government for peace talks in Qatar
Biden’s new evacuation plan comes amid an escalation of violence between US-backed Afghan forces and the Taliban.
The extremist group announced last week that it had seized a strategic border crossing with Pakistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted a video showing the Taliban fighters in the town of Spin Boldak along the border.
Residents of the Pakistani border town of Chaman reported seeing the distinctive Taliban white flag fluttering just over the border line and Taliban fighters in vehicles driving in the area.