U.S. Plans to Relocate Afghans Who Assisted American Troops as Withdrawal Deadline Nears

US soldiers, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), patrol west of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi, File)

The Biden administration plans to relocate an unspecified number of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military’s invasion and occupation of the country before American forces finish their withdrawal later this year, administration officials said.

“We are identifying SIV applicants who served as interpreters, as well as translators, to be relocated outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military drawdown,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters Thursday, referring to Special Immigrant Visa applicants.

The move comes as the White House and top Biden administration officials are increasingly under pressure to say how they intend to aid Afghan allies who could face retaliation after American forces leave in the coming months and the Taliban seek to take control of the war-torn country. Republican and Democrats on Capitol Hill have criticized the administration for not having a plan in place.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that “those who helped us are not going to be left behind,” but he added that he didn’t know which country would host them if they aren’t sent to U.S. territory. Biden will meet with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House on Friday.

Matt Zeller, a fellow at the Truman Center and a retired Army major who served in Afghanistan and arranged for his interpreter to immigrate to the U.S., said advocates for America’s Afghan allies will hold a protest outside the White House on July 1 to pressure Biden to evacuate more people from the country.

The Afghans will be moved to a third country while they wait for the U.S. to approve visas for them and their families, a senior administration official said. They are people who are easily identifiable as U.S. partners because they worked on the front lines with American troops, the official said.

Some of them have been in the process of applying for Special Immigrant Visas for years, the official said, and their advocates have raised alarm that after the American withdrawal — the deadline is Sept. 11 — they will be vulnerable to reprisals from the Taliban and other U.S. enemies. The New York Times reported earlier Thursday that they number in the thousands.

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Jennifer Jacobs and Daniel Flatley

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