Thursday, September 16

US Launches Emergency Airlift to Rescue Afghan Allies at Risk of Revenge from the Taliban | Afghanistan


The United States has launched emergency airlifts for Afghans who worked with its military and diplomats, evacuating hundreds still waiting for their visas to the United States on military flights.

Only people in the final stages of a long, slow and bureaucratic visa process are eligible for the airlift, but bringing applicants to the continental United States in large numbers is still unprecedented in recent years, officials say. they work on the program.

It reflects the mounting political pressure in the United States on the fate of Afghans who supported the NATO mission in Afghanistan and now face retaliation as the security situation deteriorates.

Tens of thousands of Afghans with a connection to the US are awaiting a response to their visa applications, including more than 18,000 who worked for the military or the embassy, ​​and more than 50,000 family members eligible to travel with them. Some have been in limbo for years.

There is also growing concern about the fate of Afghan allies in the UK. Dozens of former military commanders last week he called on the government to allow more people who worked for British forces to settle in the country.

Last week, CNN reported that a former U.S. troop interpreter had been beheaded by Taliban fighters at a militant checkpoint. Others still in the country say they face regular death threats and fear persecution as insurgents seize more territory.

Radical advances by the Taliban, in a campaign launched in May, have so far been limited to rural areas, but government troops and the militias that back them have been fighting to contain Taliban fighters within three provincial capitals.

In the south, airstrikes were called to protect Lashkar Gah in Helmand and the city of Kandahar, while in western Herat, fighting closed the airport for several days and the UN said its compound was attacked by militants who killed to a guard.

The first evacuation flight to the United States landed on Thursday, carrying about 200 passengers from Kabul, said JC Hendrickson, senior director of policy and advocacy for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which supports the new arrivals. In a sign of how hastily the program has been established, Hendrickson said they were only asked to participate last week and was quick to take staff to Virginia to prepare.

IRC has helped more than 16,000 Afghans settle in the US after obtaining special immigrant visas (SIVs), but this is the first time they have been involved in visa processing. They expect up to 3,000 people to arrive on the special flights.

“Certainly, in the last decade or two, I’ve never heard of anything like this … in the United States,” Hendrickson said.

“It is a big step in the right direction, supporting people whose lives are in danger because of their affiliation with the United States.”

He called on the government to go further in supporting Afghans at risk, including eliminating the backlog of SIV applications and creating a separate visa program for Afghans who have ties to the United States that could make them targets of SIVs. Taliban, but they do not qualify for an SIV visa. .

“The government should take an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to helping people who are affiliated with the US,” Hendrickson said, praising Congress’ moves to allocate additional resources to visa processing for the military and embassy personnel, and create a visa pipeline for other Afghans at risk. “There are tools that the US government can implement outside of this specific process (SIV). And we believe that it is urgently necessary that they do so. “

President Biden has promised that the United States will not abandon its allies in Afghanistan, as it did during its hasty exit from Vietnam.

The government is struggling to find ways to secure tens of thousands of visa applicants while they are still under scrutiny and is reportedly in talks with the governments of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf to receive them.

Those who are allowed to enter the US directly, under a condition known as “humanitarian probation,” are the small proportion who had already completed a strict background and security check. They only waited for medical controls or the issuance of visas.

People who obtain SIV visas are normally expected to organize their own travel from Afghanistan, but military planes have flown this group to the United States. They will be housed at the Fort Lee military base until they have completed the final stages of visa applications, the Pentagon said. In the past week.

The Taliban has said they won’t harm interpreters, but few of those who served in the US military trust that security. There have been multiple reports of human rights abuses, including targeted killings, in areas seized by the group.

These include videos that appeared to show Taliban fighters running a group of the commandos that tried to surrender in May. The Taliban deny executing the soldiers and say the video was false.

Last month, militants also mutilated the body of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Danish Siddiqui, who worked for the Reuters news agency. the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing Afghan and Indian photographs and officials.


www.theguardian.com

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