March 27, 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 United States works with allies to secure multiple overseas locations for approximately 4,000 Afghan nationals and their families as U.S. and coalition forces withdraw from the war-torn country.

The inter-agency effort, known as Operation Allies Refuge, comes as the State Department works on a backlog of more than 10,000 special immigrant visas for eligible Afghans who have helped coalition forces. Those who have completed the bulk of their visa procedures are evacuated to a U.S. Army garrison in Virginia.

A senior State Department official, who requested anonymity to discuss specific details of the relocation plan, said Afghan nationals and their families will stay at Fort Lee for approximately seven to 10 days.

The official added that due to a limited US military presence in Afghanistan, those eligible for an evacuation flight will have to travel to Kabul alone.

“We don’t have the ability to transport them. If they are, say, in the north of the country and don’t feel safe in Afghanistan, they could go to a neighboring country and do the rest, SIV finish [special immigrant visa] Application process there, “said the official.

Last week the White House announced it would begin evacuation flights this month for Afghan nationals and their families who supported U.S. and NATO coalition forces during the longest American war.

With the Taliban making rapid progress on the battlefield, there are concerns that Afghans who have helped US and NATO 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 White House statement. “It is up to the Afghans to decide the future of their country.”

At the Pentagon, the country’s top military officer told reporters on Wednesday that the US has completed more than 95% of the Herculean task of withdrawing from Afghanistan.

“The sheer volume of movement on this operation was exceptional,” said General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the US Army, adding that the US had carried out more than 980 air transports of cargo in less than three months.

“In addition, all military bases outside of Kabul were completely handed over to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and the Afghan security forces.”