Afghan Visa Applicants Arrive in U.S. After Years of Waiting

WASHINGTON — The primary group of Afghans promised refuge by the Biden administration for serving to the US through the 20-year battle in Afghanistan landed on American soil early Friday, beginning a brand new life chapter after years of ready.

About 250 Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who labored with the U.S. army, in addition to their members of the family, arrived at Dulles Worldwide Airport outdoors Washington after touring greater than 30 hours from Kabul, the Afghan capital, officers mentioned.

From Dulles, they have been bused to Fort Lee, Va., south of Richmond, the place they’ll keep at a resort on the bottom for a few week to finish their processing earlier than being resettled in the US completely, officers mentioned.

The late-night arrival marked the vanguard of an preliminary group of about 2,500 Afghans being evacuated below risk of Taliban reprisals in an effort the White Home calls Operation Allies Refuge. Teams of Afghans will arrive by airplane roughly each three days and be transported to Fort Lee, mentioned one American official briefed on the preparations.

On the sprawling Military base about 130 miles south of Washington, the Afghans will keep on devoted flooring of the resort, the place personal safety reasonably than army police will likely be in place to make sure their security, officers mentioned.

A further 4,000 Afghans who labored with American forces however whose purposes want additional approvals and their households will go to different nations within the coming weeks to finish the visa course of earlier than coming to the US, officers mentioned.

The USA is negotiating with Qatar and Kuwait to accommodate hundreds of Afghans at army bases in these nations for as much as a number of months whereas they full their visa purposes and await clearance to return to the US. Diplomats are discussing comparable preparations with Kazakhstan and Kosovo, one official mentioned.

Lots of the newly arrived interpreters have lengthy been targets of the Taliban for his or her cooperation with American troops through the battle. Their passage was promised below two congressionally devised particular visa applications, however the documentation and safety necessities have bedeviled many candidates.

About 18,000 Afghans have been caught in bureaucratic limbo after making use of for particular immigrant visas, which can be found to individuals who face threats due to work for the U.S. authorities. The candidates have 53,000 members of the family, U.S. officers have mentioned.

Many extra are nonetheless trapped as Taliban fighters tighten their grip round rural areas. The administration has been opaque about who exactly will obtain passage, and lots of concern that they’ll by no means be discovered.

On Thursday, Congress agreed to broaden the variety of particular immigrant visas obtainable for Afghans to 19,000 from 11,000 and broaden the universe of individuals eligible for them by eradicating some software necessities. The measure, a part of a $2.1 billion emergency spending invoice, additionally contains tons of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} for presidency applications that assist and resettle refugees and migrants.

Mr. Biden and different high administration officers say they’re dedicated to helping Afghans who braved risks and hardships to assist the US throughout its longest battle. “It’s certainly one of our ethical obligations to assist the individuals who have helped us,” Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III mentioned on Saturday.

Navy veterans, some members of Congress and refugee teams have pushed to hurry up the evacuations. However issues {that a} processing error may lead to a safety incident have saved that stress in examine, mentioned a number of individuals who talked to administration officers in latest weeks.

“Realistically, one can not convey 20,000 interpreters straight into the US,” mentioned Mary Kaszynski, the director of presidency relations for VoteVets, a veterans group that has centered on the problem for years as a result of many members stay shut with the interpreters they labored with in Afghanistan. “That wouldn’t be protected, that wouldn’t be good for U.S. pursuits and that’s the reason they needed to implement a staged strategy.”

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