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 first group of Afghan nationals to support U.S. and NATO coalition forces during the longest American war arrived on evacuation flights from Kabul on Friday.
Earlier this month, the Biden government announced the start of evacuation flights for Afghan nationals and their immediate families as foreign troops withdraw from the war-weary country.
The first evacuation flight under the resettlement program, called Operation Allies Refuge, involves more than 200 Afghan immigrants and their immediate families.
Those who applied for a coronavirus vaccination were vaccinated in Kabul and those who refused to be vaccinated were given a Covid-19 test.
“They all have passed rigorous security audits carried out by the intelligence services and the Departments of State and Homeland Security,” said Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Russ Travers.
“Once these special Afghan immigrants are released to the US and have undergone a statutory medical examination, they will be relocated to cities across the country with the assistance of the United States Refugee Admissions Program,” Travers said, adding that more than 70,000 Afghans have since received 2008 the special immigrant visa.
Ambassador Tracey Jacobson of the State Department’s Afghanistan Coordination Task Force told reporters that the lead applicants and their families “have undergone extensive screening.”
“You are at the very end of the immigrant visa, there are just a few more steps left to take in Fort Lee, Virginia,” said Jacobson, adding that more flights are planned for the next few weeks.
The evacuation flights come in the waning weeks of a full US withdrawal from Afghanistan, effectively ending America’s longest war.
In April President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th. Earlier this month, Biden announced an updated schedule and said the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan would end on August 31.
Last week the country’s top military officer told reporters that the US had completed more than 95% of the massive withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has flown more than 980 loads of equipment from Afghanistan and turned seven facilities over to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, according to the latest update from Central Command.
“These brave men and women, who are at great risk to themselves and their families, have served with US and coalition forces and diplomats to support our operations and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism, the our homeland is threatened, ”Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrote in a statement Friday.
“We have spoken often of our moral obligation to help those who have helped us, and we are determined to work closely with our inter-agency partners to meet that obligation,” he added.