December 6, 2021

US to evacuate Afghan interpreters before military withdrawal complete, United States News & Top Stories

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States is planning to evacuate a group of vulnerable Afghan interpreters before the US military completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan so they can wrap up their visa applications from safety, US officials said on Thursday (June 24).

The evacuation of the at-risk Afghans will include their family members for a total of as many as 50,000 people, a senior Republican lawmaker told Reuters.

The decision by President Joe Biden’s administration risks inflaming a sense of crisis in Afghanistan, just a day before Biden meets Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for talks in Washington aimed at projecting a sense of partnership despite the US military exit.

Responding to questions after a White House speech, Biden said, “Those who helped us are not going to be left behind… They’re welcome here just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us.”

His meeting with Ghani comes as Taleban insurgents press a major offensive in Afghanistan, triggering growing concern in Congress for Afghan interpreters who worked for the US military during its two-decade-long engagement and fear Taleban reprisals after American troops depart.

The US officials did not disclose where the Afghans would be transported or say how many would be involved, but said the group consisted entirely of Afghans who have already started the visa process.

“Should it become necessary, we will consider additional relocation or evacuation options,” one of the officials said.

US Representative Mike McCaul, speaking to Reuters after discussing the plan with administration officials, said the evacuees will comprise some 9,000 interpreters who have applied for Special Immigration Visas and their families.

“You are probably talking about 50,000 people. There’s no way to expedite their visas in-country… on a timely basis that would save their lives,” said McCaul, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs and a leading advocate of evacuating US-affiliated Afghans.

Countries that “could be on the table” to receive them include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait, he said.

The operation “is going to involve a lot of planes,” he said, adding that while it will create the “optics” that Afghanistan “is imploding… the decision has been made to pull out our military forces and so this really needs to be part of the preparation and planning.”

Fighting between US-backed Afghan forces and the Taleban has surged in recent weeks, with the militants gaining control of territory. The Pentagon now estimates the Taleban control 81 of the country’s 419 district centres.

Political talks between the government and the Taleban have largely stalled and it is unclear how Afghan security forces will perform after US troops depart. The Taleban have assured Afghans who worked with foreign forces of their safety.

But as the clock ticks down, Afghans who have applied for visas increasingly fear that the insurgents will target them and their families, in retribution for helping foreign forces during America’s longest war.

Samey Honaryar, a former Afghan interpreter who was granted asylum in the United States after his life was threatened, said at a news conference at the US Capitol on Thursday that time was running short for his compatriots.

“Please evacuate them,” he said. “They were good people, they helped you.”

The US military has completed more than half of its withdrawal from Afghanistan and is set to finish in the coming weeks. That leaves little time to process applications for special immigrant visas already filed by roughly 9,000 Afghans, or the thousands of others who have formally expressed interest.

Although the US State Department has increased staffing, US officials say there is a limit to how fast a 14-step, multiple-agency process that includes security vetting can move without changes to legislation. If all goes well, a visa could normally be processed in nine to 12 months, officials say.

Administration officials say changes in legislation could accelerate the process, but its plans have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, which has repeatedly forced the US embassy in Kabul to postpone visa interviews.

US Representative Seth Moulton, a Democrat and former Marine, introduced legislation on Thursday to help Afghans who worked for the United States. With Honaryar and other former interpreters, he told reporters he welcomed reports of the planned evacuations.

“This is a good day in this story, but it is far from the final chapter,” Moulton said.

in World
Related Posts

Chinese envoy calls for restraint, end to Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, World News & Top Stories

June 25, 2021

June 25, 2021

UNITED NATIONS (XINHUA) – A Chinese envoy has asked for restraint in Gaza and called on Israel to stop illegal...

Biden warns Russia it faces ‘robust’ response for harmful actions as he begins European visit, United States News & Top Stories

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

MILDENHALL, ENGLAND (REUTERS) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday (June 9) began his first trip abroad since taking office by...

Mandela’s tailor on mission to boost African fashion, World News & Top Stories

June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

ABIDJAN(AFP) – Ivorian-Burkinabe tailor Pathe’O can look back on a 50-year career that has seen him rise from self-taught improviser...

US to miss July 4 goal of one Covid-19 shot for 70% of adults, United States News & Top Stories

June 22, 2021

June 22, 2021

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The administration of President Joe Biden on Tuesday (June 22) conceded it won’t meet its goal of...

UN warns of worst ‘cascade of human rights setbacks in our lifetimes’, Europe News & Top Stories

June 21, 2021

June 21, 2021

GENEVA (AFP) – The UN rights chief called on Monday (June 21) for “concerted action” to help recover from the...

Body of missing US woman found in Russia, Europe News & Top Stories

June 19, 2021

June 19, 2021

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian investigators said on Saturday (June 19) they had detained a man on suspicion of murder after...

BuzzFeed to go public in Spac deal valuing it at S$2b, United States News & Top Stories

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – BuzzFeed, the digital-media outlet, has struck a deal to go public through a merger with blank-check...

Labour veteran Herzog elected Israel’s 11th president, Middle East News & Top Stories

June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel’s Parliament elected the even-keeled Labour veteran Isaac Herzog as its 11th president on Wednesday (June 2),...

Abu Dhabi limits public spaces to people deemed Covid-19 safe, Middle East News & Top Stories

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

ABU DHABI (BLOOMBERG) – Abu Dhabi will restrict entry to public venues including malls and beaches to people who are...

As EU relaxes summer travel curbs, experts warn of Covid-19 super spreaders, Europe News & Top Stories

July 3, 2021

July 3, 2021

The peak summer tourist season often spells make-or-break for thousands of businesses across the European Union but stubbornly high Covid-19 case...

‘My soul has left me’: Family grieves after El Salvador mass grave discovered, World News & Top Stories

May 30, 2021

May 30, 2021

SANTA ANA, EL SALVADOR (REUTERS) – In his wrinkled hands, Mr Jose de la Cruz held a tangled gold-coloured necklace...

G-7 leaders poised to turn spotlight on green finance at summit, Europe News & Top Stories

June 11, 2021

June 11, 2021

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – The world’s richest governments are under mounting pressure to help poor countries fight climate change. At the...

US regrets Iranians were denied ‘free and fair electoral process’ in Raisi win, United States News & Top Stories

June 19, 2021

June 19, 2021

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States said on Saturday (June 19) it regretted Iranians were not able to participate in...

Germany probes Covid-19 testing centres for fraud, Europe News & Top Stories

May 29, 2021

May 29, 2021

FRANKFURT (AFP) – Prosecutors in several German regions have launched probes of companies offering free Covid-19 tests after news reports...

Robot waiters take Iraq’s Mosulites to the future, Middle East News & Top Stories

November 22, 2021

November 22, 2021

MOSUL, IRAQ (AFP) – From the rubble of Iraq’s war-ravaged city of Mosul arises the sight of androids gliding back...