The US State Department has announced that more than2,500 Afghan nationals who aided US military efforts in Afghanistan and members of their families will be evacuated to Fort Lee, Virginia, while they’re awaiting final visa approval amid the US troops’ withdrawal from the country, Fox News reports.
According to a Defense Department notice given to members of Congress the first set of applicants, starting next week will be taken to the base which will be, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price, initial relocation site for refugees whose visa statuses are the closest to completion.
Price told reporters that these are brave Afghans whose service to the United States has been certified by the embassy in Kabul, and who have completed security vetting processes.
The Biden administration plans on flying over 18,000 Afghan nationals and their families out of the country by the end of the month under ‘Operation Allies Refuge’ with 4,000 of them who have completed most of the application process but have yet to clear security screening facing being temporarily housed in countries other than the US.
President Biden has vowed to speed up the typically long visa approval process and the first 2,500 Afghans – 700 of which supported US military efforts and 1,800 are members of their families- are being processed through the Special Immigrant Visa Program, created in 2009.
But the US House of Representatives will vote Thursday on expediting the process for that program, raising its cap and relaxing some requirements that can slow the process down.
The ongoing US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is expected to be complete by the end of August, has sparked fears that Afghan aides of the US troops could face retribution from the Taliban once the US military is gone.