Politics|Afghan Visa Applicants Arrive successful U.S. After Years of Waiting
The archetypal radical of Afghan interpreters and others who helped Americans during the warfare volition enactment connected an Army basal successful Virginia until they are resettled.
July 30, 2021Updated 8:22 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON — The archetypal radical of Afghans promised refuge by the Biden medication for helping the United States during the 20-year warfare successful Afghanistan landed connected American ungraded aboriginal Friday, starting a caller beingness section aft years of waiting.
A chartered airliner carrying 221 Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with the U.S. military, arsenic good arsenic their household members, arrived astatine Dulles International Airport extracurricular Washington aft traveling much than 30 hours from Kabul, the Afghan capital, officials said.
From Dulles, they were bused to Fort Lee, Va., southbound of Richmond, wherever they volition enactment astatine a edifice connected the basal for astir a week to implicit their processing earlier being resettled successful the United States permanently, officials said.
The late-night accomplishment marked the vanguard of an archetypal radical of astir 2,500 Afghans being evacuated nether menace of Taliban reprisals successful an effort the White House calls Operation Allies Refuge. Groups of Afghans volition get by level astir each 3 days and beryllium transported to Fort Lee, said 1 American authoritative briefed connected the arrangements.
At the sprawling Army basal astir 130 miles southbound of Washington, the Afghans volition enactment connected dedicated floors of the hotel, wherever backstage information alternatively than subject constabulary volition beryllium successful spot to guarantee their safety, officials said.
An further 4,000 Afghans who worked with American forces but whose applications request further approvals volition spell to different countries with their families successful the coming weeks to implicit the visa process earlier coming to the United States, officials said.
The United States is negotiating with Qatar and Kuwait to location thousands of Afghans astatine subject bases successful those countries for up to respective months portion they implicit their visa applications and await clearance to travel to the United States. Diplomats are discussing akin arrangements with Kazakhstan and Kosovo, 1 authoritative said.
Many of the recently arrived interpreters person agelong been targets of the Taliban for their practice with American troops during the war. Their transition was promised nether 2 congressionally devised peculiar visa programs, but the documentation and information requirements person bedeviled galore applicants.
About 18,000 Afghans person been caught successful bureaucratic limbo aft applying for peculiar migrant visas, which are disposable to radical who look threats due to the fact that of enactment for the U.S. government. The applicants person 53,000 household members, U.S. officials person said.
Many much are inactive trapped arsenic Taliban fighters tighten their grip astir agrarian areas. The medication has been opaque astir who precisely volition person passage, and galore fearfulness that they volition ne'er beryllium found.
On Thursday, Congress agreed to grow the fig of peculiar migrant visas disposable for Afghans to 19,000 from 11,000 and broaden the beingness of radical eligible for them by removing immoderate exertion requirements. The measure, portion of a $2.1 cardinal exigency spending bill, besides includes hundreds of millions of dollars for authorities programs that assistance and resettle refugees and migrants.
Mr. Biden and different apical medication officials accidental they are committed to assisting Afghans who braved dangers and hardships to assistance the United States during its longest war. “We person spoken galore times astir the motivation work we person to assistance those who person helped us,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said successful a connection past week.
Military veterans, immoderate members of Congress and exile groups person pushed to velocity up the evacuations. But concerns that a processing mistake could effect successful a information occupation person kept that unit successful check, said respective radical who talked to medication officials successful caller weeks.
“Realistically, 1 cannot bring 20,000 interpreters straight into the United States,” said Mary Kaszynski, the manager of authorities relations for VoteVets, a veterans enactment that has focused connected the contented for years due to the fact that galore members stay adjacent with the interpreters they worked with successful Afghanistan. “That wouldn’t beryllium safe, that wouldn’t beryllium bully for U.S. interests and that is wherefore they had to instrumentality a staged approach.”
Ross Wilson, the complaint d’affaires astatine the U.S. embassy successful Kabul, heralded the occurrence of the archetypal formation but acknowledged the difficulties that prevarication up for the thousands much awaiting refuge arsenic the information concern crossed Afghanistan deteriorates.
“Much enactment remains up to conscionable America’s committedness to those who person been committed to us,” Mr. Wilson told reporters Friday astatine a quality league held astatine the embassy.
The archetypal 2,500 being evacuated nether this caller propulsion by the Biden medication are astir 700 visa applicants on with their household members, Mr. Wilson said. A 2nd radical of astir 4,000 volition beryllium relocated successful the coming weeks and months, helium added.
Stuck successful limbo are thousands of others seeking a visa who were recovered not to suffice for the peculiar migrant visa program, often for insignificant reasons. Many of these applicants person appealed oregon reapplied countless times and are acrophobic they volition beryllium abandoned arsenic the United States leaves.
Currently determination is nary authoritative effort to assistance those successful that applicant pool, on with those who are incapable to get to Kabul to acquisition the visa process due to the fact that of caller Taliban advances.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul.