US to announce evacuation of Afghan translators amid Taliban surge

Biden administration is set to begin evacuations of thousands of Afghans who aided US military in the nearly 20-year war during the last week of July, according to a senior administration official.

In this Friday, April 30, 2021, file photo former Afghan interpreters hold banners during a protest against the US government and NATO in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In this Friday, April 30, 2021, file photo former Afghan interpreters hold banners during a protest against the US government and NATO in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP)

The Biden administration is expected to announce soon the start of “Operation Allies Refuge,” a plan to evacuate Afghan translators seeking US visas after working alongside the US military for years, five sources have told Reuters news agency.

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The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the announcement likely would be made on Wednesday and that the operation would involve chartered civilian aircraft.

The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A senior administration official said the flights would begin in the last week of this month, but other details would be withheld for “operational security.”

It is expected that the initial evacuees will include Afghans who worked for the US government who are waiting for their applications to be processed.

A State Department unit coordinating the evacuations will be run by veteran Ambassador Tracey Jacobson and include representatives from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the official said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Russ Travers will coordinate an interagency policy process related to the evacuations.

Pressure on Biden

President Joe Biden’s administration has faced pressure to provide security for Afghans who aided Washington as it ends its two-decade war in the country by the end of August.

Taliban fighters hostile to those workers have seized control of major border crossings and land in the country in recent weeks as US troops have withdrawn.

The evacuation planning could potentially affect tens of thousands of Afghans. Several thousand Afghans who worked for the US — plus their family members — are already in the application pipeline for special immigrant visas.

The Biden administration has also been working on identifying a third country or US territory that could host Afghans while their visa applications are processed.

The administration is weighing using State Department-chartered commercial aircraft, not military aircraft, according to a second administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

But if at some stage the State Department requests military aircraft, the US military would be ready to assist, the official said.

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