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Head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, speaks in the U.S. embassy compound in Kabul on July 25, 2021. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

The first plane with more than 200 Afghans who served as interpreters, contractors or other ally roles for the U.S. military has arrived in the U.S. — the first of many such flights as troops are withdrawn from the region.

Why it matters: More than 700 Afghan allies and their families are preparing to be brought into the U.S. in the coming days on special immigrant visas. More than 70,000 Afghans have received those since 2008.

What they're saying: "This flight represents a fulfillment of the U.S. commitment and honors these Afghans' brave service in helping support our mission in Afghanistan, in turn, helping to keep our country safe," Senior Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Russ Travers said on a call Thursday.

The big picture: The flight comes after President Biden pledged support for Afghan interpreters and others who helped the U.S. military throughout the war.

Driving the news: The approximately 200 Afghans traveling to the U.S. this week — under "Operation Allies Refuge" — have completed rigorous security background checks and will complete a medical exam upon arrival at Fort Lee in Virginia, per Travers, before being resettled in cities across the country.

  • Other Afghans may be under threat, but are not currently eligible for the special immigrant visa program, including women's leaders, activists, human rights defenders and journalists.
  • Thousands of Afghan allies who are not as far along in the special immigrant visa process will be moved out of Afghanistan to a third country for safety, said Ambassador Tracy Jacobson, who leads the State Department's Afghanistan task force.

What to watch: When asked if there would be a similar program to the one that has allowed some Iraqi allies to receive refugee status in the country, Jacobson said they are considering a variety of options.

Go deeper: Biden defends Afghanistan exit as fears of collapse grow

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2021 - World

Pentagon warns of ISIS-K capabilities outside Afghanistan

The site of an airstrike conducted by the U.S. against a planner for ISIS-K in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan in August. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

U.S. intelligence believes ISIS-K has the "intent" to eventually launch attacks outside of Afghanistan and could be capable of doing so "somewhere between six or 12 months," a top Pentagon official told senators Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has raised fears that terrorist groups will reconstitute and potentially pose a renewed threat to the U.S. homeland.

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."

Biden challenges GOP agenda: "What are Republicans for?"

President Biden pushed back against Republican efforts to obstruct his agenda during a press conference Wednesday, asking "What are Republicans for?"

Why it matters: Biden's speech comes as he approaches one year in office, facing low polling numbers and a stalled agenda.