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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or other ally roles for the U.S. military has arrived in the U.S. — the first of many such flights as troops are withdrawn from the region.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

Obama, Bush, Clinton join aid effort welcoming Afghan refugees to U.S.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton attending the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in April 2013 in Dallas. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, along with first ladies, governors, mayors and military leaders, will help welcome and support Afghan refugees who fled the country for the United States because of Taliban rule as part of an aid effort being launched Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. evacuated more than 65,000 Afghans during its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Biden administration must now process and resettle thousands of families around the country in the coming weeks.

Updated Sep 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Top Democrat threatens to subpoena Biden officials as Blinken testifies on Afghanistan

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, facing a second day of interrogation from Republican lawmakers highly critical of the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Driving the news: The committee's chair, the hawkish New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, pulled no punches in his opening statement, threatening to subpoena Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other Biden officials who decline to voluntarily appear before the committee.

Red flags for Biden's "over-the-horizon" strategy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration's "over-the-horizon" strategy in Afghanistan is drawing serious questions from lawmakers and counterterrorism experts, as the U.S. withdrawal shifts calculations about threats and capabilities.

Driving the news: Tensions ramped up in an Aug. 27 conference call between President Biden's top national security officials and senators from both parties, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios. One said members of the intelligence community label it, derisively, the "over-the-rainbow" strategy.