Buses transporting Afghan special immigrant applicants arrive from Dulles International Airport and reach the Holiday Inn Express hotel in support of Operation Allies Refuge, July 30, 2021 at Fort Lee, Virginia. The Department of Defense, in support of the Department of State, is providing transportation and temporary housing for Afghan special immigrant applicants recently relocated to the United States to complete the final steps of the immigration process. This initiative follows through on America's commitment to Afghan citizens who have helped the United States, and provides them essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan, where they and their families can complete the Special Immigrant Visa process safely.  

The first flight of about 200 Afghan interpreters and their families arrived at Fort Lee near Petersburg on July 30, as evacuations began for those who worked for years with the United States military and faced threats from the resurgent Taliban, which has gained control of more territory after the U.S. withdrawal.

The first stop was temporary processing and a physical exam, said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who briefed reporters July 29.

Warner said the Afghani translators have worked with U.S. and NATO forces for 20 years, and he wants to ensure they “do not get left to be massacred by the Taliban.”

He added that the translators will not be at Fort Lee for long. “It’ll be the start of a resettlement process,” he said. “These families will then be sponsored by families across the nation. But it is incumbent on the United States of America to stand by those who stood with us in the Afghan struggle.”

White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki said in a briefing that about 20,000 interpreters have applied for special immigrant visas.

“Those who have not completed background checks would first be relocated from Afghanistan to a U.S. military base overseas, or to a safe third country while they attain clearance,” she said.

Warner noted that the Department of Defense chose Fort Lee, south of Richmond, as the processing center, for its proven capability. “I think it was because Fort Lee has the type of facility to be able to house this kind of surge of population.”

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new resettlement program to expand protections of people not covered by current legislation.

“We know that there are Afghans who don’t qualify but who helped us and deserve our help. Some may not have the qualifying employment for the special immigrant visa – for example, they worked for a project funded by the U.S. government, but not for the government itself,” Blinken said. “Some may not have met the minimum time-in-service requirement – for example, employees who began working for us more recently. And some were employed by American media organizations or NGOs, doing vital work to support democratic progress in Afghanistan.”

Paul Lara covers the military beat. Reach him at plara@insidenova.com


(5) comments

Donald Quella

After 20 years of Westernization, maybe 20 of 40 million Afghan citizens would be so threatened by the Taliban that they would flee the Taliban and become refugees, one way or another. That includes women, artists, musicians, educators. Janet forgot to mention the millions of refugees the U.S. absorbed from Central America when the U.S. started fighting a proxy war against the "Communists" in Central America 40 years ago.

Janet Smith

Disconcerting...After the conflicts in SE Asia ended 46 years ago the U.S. Military vowed America would never again become involved in a prolonged Third World conflict. Afghanistan's population is currently 40 million (having doubled since the U.S. started fighting there 20 years ago). How many Afghan refugees will the U.S. eventually absorb...3 million?...5 million?...7 million?

John Dutko

Yes, please tell us how many refugees from a landlocked country in a region hostile to the US will make it to our country.

Pres Bush activated Art 5 of NATO agreement because the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden.

Were asleep the last 20 years?

Janet Smith

This is the third unwinnable conflict the U.S. has been involved in since the end of WW2...Korea is ongoing for 71 years...Vietnam 14 years...Afghanistan 20 years. How many trillions spent and how many American lives lost?

John Dutko

What is the point you are trying to make?

Are you making some kind of commentary on the United States geopolitical standing?

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