June 3, 2023

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Riley (right) and a Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul interpreter (center) meet a villager while on patrol to the Arghandab River, Afghanistan, on July 19, 2011.

Source: U.S. Army

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration will begin evacuation flights this month for Afghan nationals and their families who supported U.S. and NATO coalition forces during the longest American war.

A senior White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of the effort, said the foreign, defense and homeland security departments will oversee the task of safely relocating Afghan nationals.

“For operational safety reasons, we will not have any additional details about when the flights will start, but we will fulfill the president’s promise to start flights this month,” the official said.

The inter-agency effort, dubbed Operation Allies Refuge, follows concerns voiced on Capitol Hill and elsewhere about the State Department’s ability to work off a backlog of more than 10,000 special immigrant visas for eligible Afghans before remaining U.S. forces do Leave the country.

With the Taliban making rapid progress on the battlefield, there are concerns that Afghans who have helped US forces face retaliation.

In April, Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, effectively ending America’s longest war. Last week, Biden gave an updated schedule, saying the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will end on August 31st.

“We didn’t go to Afghanistan to build a nation,” Biden said in a statement in the White House on Thursday. “It is up to Afghans to make decisions about the future of their country,” he added.

In yet another symbolic end to America’s longest running military conflict, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chief of Staff Mark Milley met Gen. Scott Miller, the former U.S. Supreme Commander in Afghanistan, on the airline at Joint Base Andrews Wednesday morning.

Miller, America’s last four-star commander to serve on the ground in Afghanistan, stepped down on Monday, nearly three years after taking over the war.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) and Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley greet Gen. Austin S. Miller, former U.S. Supreme Commander in Afghanistan, upon his return to Andrews Air Force Base, July 14, 2021.

Alex Brandon | Reuters

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it had completed more than 95% of the entire withdrawal process.

The US military has removed approximately 984 loads of material that were flown out of the country by large cargo planes, according to an update from US Central Command.

Approximately 17,000 pieces of equipment that will not be handed over to the Afghan military have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction. The US has officially handed over seven facilities to the Afghan military, including the Bagram Air Force Base.