US evacuates 200 allies who helped during Afghan war, funds their visas
The United States on Friday flew 200 Afghans, allies who aided the Americans during the Afghanistan war, to their new home away from the Taliban's direct threat. The very first of such evacuation flights landed early in the morning at Washington's Dulles International Airport, reported the Associated Press, citing an internal US government document and a commercial flight-tracking service. The airliner carried 221 Afghans in all, including 57 children and 15 babies, according to the document.
Meanwhile, the US Congress is taking steps to expedite visas for the Afghans to help them settle into their new lives in America. The federal government passed emergency legislation earlier on Thursday afternoon that would, among other things, increase the number of visas for allies who worked alongside Americans in the Afghanistan war.
The $2.1 billion bill provides for revamped security at the Capitol building in Washington, a measure deemed much-needed after the violent January 6 violence, and also allocates additional funds for the translators and others who worked closely with US government troops and civilians in Afghanistan.
The US evacuations are meant to resettle former translators and others who fear retaliation from Afghanistan’s Taliban for having worked with American service members and civilians. Just one week ago, the Taliban beheaded a translator, Sohail Pardis, right near his home in capital Kabul. Pardis worked as a translator for the United States army for 16 months during the conflict that spanned over two decades.
The evacuation flights highlight American uncertainty about how Afghanistan’s government and military will fare after the last US combat forces leave that country in coming weeks, the Associated Press noted.
The interpreters and other allies of the US who are being flown in American flights are also accompanied by their families. They were expected to stay at Fort Lee, Virginia for several days, US officials said earlier this month. Subsequent flights are due to bring more of the applicants who are farthest along in the process of getting visas, having already won approval and cleared security screening.