Jun 24, 2021 - World

U.S. to evacuate some Afghans who helped troops before withdrawal

A U.S. Marine (L) and Afghan interpreter (R) in the Korengal Valley in 2008. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Biden administration plans to move thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. military out of the country before completing a troop withdrawal by Sep. 11.

Why it matters: With the Taliban rapidly gaining ground as America's exit approaches, Afghans known to have worked with the U.S. — including interpreters, embassy aides and drivers — could be in danger. Pressure has been growing on the White House to get them out.

The state of play: More than 18,000 Afghans are in various stages of the visa application process. It has moved slowly, due in part to a suspension of in-person interviews at the U.S. embassy in Kabul during the pandemic.

  • Including their family members, there are 71,000 Afghans currently in limbo, per the New York Times.
  • The administration plans to get at least some of them out of harm's way until their applications can be processed. But it's not clear how many will be evacuated or where they will be taken. One option is Guam, per CNN.
  • It's also not clear what will happen to those who are evacuated but not granted visas.

What to watch: U.S. officials want to handle this issue carefully so as not to spark a "panicked brain drain" from Afghanistan, CNN reports.

  • But they've been under pressure from former members of Congress and former military leaders, who say the priority should be to move quickly to ensure that those who aided the U.S. over 20 years of war aren't abandoned amid a Taliban onslaught.
  • The White House says it's working to streamline the visa application process.
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