Washington: The Biden administration said Wednesday that it is prepared to begin evacuation flights for Afghan interpreters and translators who aided the US military effort in the nearly 20-year war.
The Operation Allies Refuge flights out of Afghanistan during the last week of July will be available first for special immigrant visa applicants already in the process of applying for US residency, according to the White House.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to detail how many Afghans are expected to be among those evacuated in the first flights or where those evacuated will be taken, citing security concerns.
The reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals, Psaki said.
We want to make sure we recognise and value the role they’ve played over the last several years.
President Joe Biden has faced pressure from lawmakers on both parties to come up with a plan to help evacuate Afghan military helpers before next month’s US troop withdrawal.
The White House began briefing lawmakers on the outlines of their plans last month.
The evacuation planning could potentially affect tens of thousands of Afghans.
Several thousand Afghans who worked for the United States plus their family members are already in the application pipeline for special immigrant visas.
The Biden administration has also been working on identifying a third country or US territory that could host Afghans while their visa applications are processed.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said that much about the Biden evacuation plan remains unknown, including how the administration will help those in areas outside the capital of Kabul evacuate.
The Taliban have made rapid gains in taking over huge swaths of the country, particularly in more rural areas.
Unfortunately, there are still far too many questions left unanswered, including who exactly and how many people are eligible for evacuation. … How will those outside the capital access safety? said Vignarajah, whose group has helped resettle thousands of Afghans in the US.
And to what countries will they be evacuated? We have serious concerns about the protection of our allies’ human rights in countries that have been rumoured as potential partners in this effort.