Flights for those already in a U.S. visa application process will begin during the last week of July, according to the U.S. Embassy.
“The US Embassy will coordinate with the State Department in support of Operation Allies Refuge,” said Ambassador Ross Wilson, US Chargé d’Affaires in Kabul.
“These resettlement operations will allow the United States to fulfill its commitment to those who have served our country here at the risk of their lives,” Wilson said.
Fears of a Taliban takeover of Kabul have grown as the armed group wins the battle against Afghan government forces and police in provinces around the capital and seize border posts with Iran , neighboring Pakistan and Turkmenistan.
The withdrawal of US forces, reducing the 4,000 troops to 650 who will remain to protect the embassy and airport in Kabul, is already 90% complete, according to US military officials. The United States handed over control of Bagram Air Base to the Afghan military, and the since 2018 US commander, General Austin ‘Scott’ Miller, has been recalled to Washington.
The “immediate focus” of the United States is on the relocation of “eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have supported the United States and our partners in Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Jen said Thursday. Psaki to reporters in Washington, DC.
(1/2) The U.S. Embassy will coordinate with the State Department to support Operation Allies Refuge. These relocation operations will allow the United States to fulfill its commitment to those who have served our country here at the risk of their lives. https://t.co/JaHEFb7a04
– Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson (@USAmbKabul) July 15, 2021
There are about 20,000 interpreters, clerks, drivers and others along with their family members who are applying for visas to enter the United States under a special program for Afghans, Psaki said. The US Congress is preparing legislation to speed up these visas and support the emergency relocation plan.
Psaki said “a large part of this group” would be “transferred directly to a military base in the United States” where they would receive “medical examinations”, accommodation and assistance.
Others “who have not yet completed their background checks” would first be airlifted either to US military bases abroad or to third countries “where they will be accommodated safely until that their visa processing is complete, ”Psaki said.
She did not specify which US bases or third countries would be involved, citing safety and security concerns for those relocated.
The relocation plan for the Afghans who helped the United States had been in the works for weeks. President Joe Biden, who authorized the flights, said: “Those who helped us will not be left behind. ”