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A crowd waiting to flee Kabul. Photo: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Afghans fleeing Kabul aren't supposed to reach America's shores until they've passed a multi-step vetting process — 14 steps, in the case of some interpreters and others who helped the U.S military.

Where it stands: The U.S. has helped evacuate more than 70,000 Afghans since Aug. 14. Only a fraction are believed to have entered the U.S. — though exactly how many isn't clear.

  • The number was estimated last week at roughly 2,000, with 800 coming soon. Neither the White House nor the Department of Homeland Security could share updated numbers Tuesday evening.

Details: There are four basic categories of people leaving Afghanistan for the U.S.:

  • American citizens and green card holders.
  • Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants, including interpreters and others who aided the U.S.
  • Afghans who helped the U.S. or worked for U.S.-based NGOs or news organizations who qualify for a new refugee category.
  • Other vulnerable Afghans who manage to flee the country and receive refugee resettlement in the U.S. down the road.

How it works: After navigating Taliban checkpoints, mobs at the airport and eligibility requirements to board evacuation planes, fleeing Afghans are being taken to military bases in Europe and the Middle East.

  • Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar has been a top initial destination. Overcrowding there has created "a living hell," according to internal government communications reported by Axios.
  • The administration announced last week that Bahrain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan are accepting or will soon accept Americans and some others fleeing Afghanistan.

In these countries, people planning to relocate to the U.S. are first vetted, including SIV applicants and their families.

  • "That process involves biometric and biographic security screenings," a senior administration officials told reporters during a call on Tuesday.
  • Those screenings are "conducted by our intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals, who are working quite literally around the clock to vet all of these Afghans before they're allowed to enter the United States."

Afghans who are not U.S. citizens or green card holders are then sent to military bases within the country, such as Fort Lee, Va., for a full health screening.

  • After receiving assistance applying for work authorization, arriving families are then connected with refugee organizations who will help them resettle.

What to watch: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is using humanitarian parole to allow certain people leaving Afghanistan to come to the U.S. who would otherwise have no legal status.

  • This could include people who've not yet completed the SIV process, the official said.
  • The official did not provide specific, updated numbers on how many people have arrived, or non-SIV examples of people who have been brought into the U.S. using humanitarian parole.
  • The mechanism could allow the U.S. to bring vulnerable people to American soil faster.

COVID-19 protocols: The State Department has waived requirements for a negative coronavirus tests for people fleeing Afghanistan, but the official said that everyone is required to get tested once they arrive at a U.S. airport.

  • The administration is working to provide vaccines, as well but the process is still being established.

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 safely leaves Afghanistan

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House residence. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue President Biden in Afghanistan in 2008 when he was a senator has safely left the country with his wife and five children, the State Department confirmed to Axios on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Aman Khalili, who was instrumental to the mission that rescued Biden's helicopter when it was caught in a snowstorm according to U.S. veterans, was forced into hiding after the Taliban took over Kabul.

Updated 26 mins ago - World

Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate panel will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with "crimes against humanity," alleging his COVID-19 pandemic response led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, per the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The latest: The lawmakers initially said Bolsonaro should be charged with mass homicide and genocide, but lawmakers updated the report to replace these with the new charge, its lead author, Sen. Renan Calheiros, told the NYT.

California governor declares drought emergency for entire state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speakinng to reporters in Los Angeles in September. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover the entire state on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s, as measured by both lack of precipitation and high temperatures," per a statement from the governor's office. This past August was the driest and hottest one on record, "and the water year that ended last month was the second driest on record," the statement added.