As the US withdraws from Afghanistan, time is running out to save thousands of Afghans who helped American forces during the two-decade war and now face retribution from the rapidly advancing Taliban.
The Biden administration hatched an eleventh-hour plan, known as Operation Allies Refuge, to evacuate thousands of Afghan interpreters as well as other employees of the US government or allied forces, and their families. An initial group of about 2,500 started arriving at Fort Lee in northern Virginia on July 30.
They’re coming to the US on a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), more than 73,000 of which have already been issued to Afghans in the last 13 years. The House recently voted on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis to make 8,000 more of those visas available, and to make it easier to apply for the program.
The Biden administration is also pursuing agreements with other countries to allow eligible Afghans to relocate to safety while the US finishes processing their applications. And the administration has opened up a new pathway for Afghans (and their families) who have worked for a US government-funded program, US-based media, or non-governmental organizations, but who don’t meet the narrow requirements for the SIV program, to come to the US as refugees.
“Those who helped us are not going to be left behind,” Biden told reporters at the White House last month.
But in practice, those efforts may not be enough to protect all of the Afghans who helped the US government. There are more than 18,000 applicants for the SIV program waiting for processing, and thousands more who may have worked with the US government but aren’t eligible for the program. If they live in the outer provinces of
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