The first flight of Afghan interpreters fleeing the Taliban lands in the United States.
President Joe Biden announced Friday that the first flight transporting Afghans who worked as interpreters for American troops and diplomats had landed in the United States, marking the start of a program to evacuate thousands of people from Taliban vengeance.
Following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, around 20,000 Afghans worked with the US and have applied for evacuation through the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visas program.
According to some estimates, the total number of potential evacuees under “Operation Allies Refuge” could reach 100,000 once family are factored in.
Many of them are afraid of vengeance from the Taliban, who have taken control of a large section of the nation since foreign soldiers began the final step of their withdrawal in late August.
In a statement provided by the White House, Biden said, “Today is a crucial milestone as we continue to deliver our pledge to the thousands of Afghan nationals who have served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan.”
He went on to say that the administration was striving to get visa-eligible Afghans out of harm’s way as swiftly as possible.
These first immigrants, according to Biden, had previously through comprehensive background checks and security screenings, and would undergo medical exams and other processing in Fort Lee, Virginia, before being resettled across the country.
According to Russ Travers, a White House National Security Council member, this first flight of roughly 200 Afghans is part of a larger group of about 2,500 Afghans who are farther along in the visa process and are being prioritized for relocation to the United States in the coming weeks.
“They join nearly 70,000 Afghans who have received (Special Immigrant Visas) and begun new lives in the United States since 2008,” Travers added.
The arrivals are slated to stay seven days at the Fort Lee military facility outside Petersburg, Virginia, according to Tracey Jacobson, the State Department’s Afghanistan Task Force director.
Jacobson told reporters, “They’ve all been Covid-tested, they’ve had a fitness-to-fly exam, and we’ve supplied immunizations in Kabul to those who want them.”
“Those immunizations will be available at Fort Lee as well.”
The UN International Organization for Migration will next assist them in finding new homes, either with family already in the United States or through arrangements made by the IOM and the State Department.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Afghans on Friday. Brief News from Washington Newsday.