Washington [US], July 30 (ANI): The first group of 200 Afghans who helped US soldiers and diplomats in Afghanistan arrived in the US under Operation Allies Refuge on Friday, even as thousands more await in Afghanistan in increasing fear of Taliban reprisals.
The first flight evacuating Afghan interpreters and others who worked alongside the United States forces in Afghanistan has landed at Washington Dulles International Airport, the US government has announced.
“The first group of applicants to be relocated under Operation Allies Refuge has arrived at Fort Lee, Virginia, where they will finish the remaining steps on their path to becoming America’s newest immigrants–joining 70,000 Afghan special immigrants who have become permanent residents and started new lives in the United States since 2008, ” the US State Department said.
“America has a longstanding tradition of opening our arms to immigrants, refugees, and others, and this flight stands as the latest example. We, alongside our civil society partners and tens of thousands of volunteers across our nation, look forward to greeting our Afghan friends and partners. It is my great pleasure to say to them: “welcome to your new home,” it added.
The first group of approved Afghan applicants for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) touched down and travelled to Fort Lee, Virginia, on Friday, according to the Biden administration, reported CNN.
The flight carried about 200 people, including applicants and their families, part of a priority group of 700 Afghan SIV applicants who have completed the majority of the background process required to get a visa. Along with their families, they number about 2,500.
“Today is an important milestone as we continue to fulfill our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan,” President Joe Biden said in a statement, reported CNN.
Russ Travers, the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor on the National Security Council, said the flight is “the fulfillment of the US commitment and honours these Afghans brave service in helping support our mission Afghanistan, in turn, helping to keep our country safe.”
Thousands more wait in Afghanistan to be evacuated amid increasing fear of Taliban reprisals.
The Afghans on that flight are the lucky ones. They represent a sliver of the estimated 20,000 SIV applicants in line, some of whom told CNN they are deeply afraid as they watch the Taliban’s bloody executions and reprisals against those who helped US troops.
“We need to get out of the country, they are looking after us,” Naveed Mustafa, an interpreter who worked with US and UK forces, told CNN.
The fear of Taliban reprisal is being felt deeply across Afghanistan as the nearly two-decade US military campaign in the country draws to a close, leaving thousands like Naveed in a bind.
The process of applying for the SIV program to be able to come to the United States can take years. And despite the Biden administration’s announcement in July that it was launching Operation Allies Refuge, questions remain about whether the US government will be able to relocate SIV applicants quickly enough, reported CNN.
Of the 20,000 people in the SIV pipeline, about 10,000 have only just begun the process, the State Department said in recent weeks.
US officials have said they are looking to relocate some applicants to US military bases, like Fort Lee, and even to third countries so they can complete the application and clearance process in relative safety. (ANI)