US to evacuate thousands of Afghans and their families amid fears of retaliation by the Taliban.
The House of Representatives on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to authorize 8,000 special visas for Afghans who served the United States during the occupation of Afghanistan, which is now coming to an end after 20 years.
The bill, which now goes to the U.S. Senate, will extend the special visa permit to Afghan families working for the U.S. and for employees of non-governmental organizations.
The Taliban threaten to occupy Afghanistan after US and NATO forces leave at the end of August and advance battlefields in half the country, seizing local districts and key border crossings amid slow peace talks.
In “Operation Allies Refuge” the US government plan to evacuate as many as 20,000 Afghan interpreterscontractors and security personnel with their families to the U.S., starting with about 2,500 Afghans and their family members to be flown to Fort Lee, a U.S. military base in the state of Virginia. Thousands more are being drafted for evacuation to U.S. bases in third countries as their immigration applications are processed.
The House bill was sponsored by Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat and former U.S. military guard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and drew broad support from both Democrats and Republicans, passing a vote of 407 to 16.
As we withdraw from Afghanistan, we must do justice to our Afghan partners who have served with us.
Today we took action, led by @RepJasonCrow, to expand the visa program and ensure that our Afghan partners can be evacuated to safety.
Their lives depend on us keeping our promises.
– Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) 22 July 2021
A coalition of more than 20 U.S. news organizations has sent letters to President Joe Biden and Congress asking for a safe exit from Afghanistan for Afghans who have worked with U.S. media as journalists, interpreters and support staff.
Now that US troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, these individuals fear “retaliation from the Taliban because they have courageously committed themselves to the US press”, according to media reports.
“They and their families face the same threat of retaliation from the Taliban” as Afghans who worked for the US military and government agencies.
The Taliban “regard the American press as a legitimate target” and “are waging a long campaign of threat and murder of journalists,” the letters read, according to the News Media Alliance.
With the support of President Biden, a two-party group in the U.S. Senate is preparing similar legislation to expand the U.S. visa quota for Afghans and facilitate administrative requirements to expedite the program.
“The deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan are worrying and underline how precarious the situation is for those most vulnerable to violence and oppression of the Taliban,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a leading Democrat, said in a statement on July 19. support of the pending legislation.
Former United States military chief of staff Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Pentagon on July 21 that Taliban militants appeared to be deserving of military action. Strategic momentum against the forces of the Western-backed government in Kabul.
‘What they’re trying to do is isolate the most important population centers, ”Milley said.