Finally coming to his senses, President Biden won't be leaving thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and their families to be butchered by Taliban forces as the US finally slinks away from the mother of all Unfinished Bush Business.
The Biden administration is set to begin evacuations of Afghan interpreters and translators who aided the U.S. military effort in the nearly 20-year war, an administration official said.
The Operation Allies Refuge flights out of Afghanistan during the last week of July will be available first for special immigrant visa applicants already in the process of applying for U.S. residency, according to the senior administration official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
President Joe Biden has faced pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to come up with a plan to help evacuate Afghan military helpers ahead of next month’s U.S. military withdrawal. The White House began briefing lawmakers on the outlines of their plans last month.
The evacuation planning could potentially affect tens of thousands of Afghans. Several thousand Afghans who worked for the U.S. — plus their family members — are already in the application pipeline for special immigrant visas.
The Biden administration has also been working on identifying a third country or U.S. territory that could host Afghans while their visa applications are processed.
The administration is weighing using State Department-chartered commercial aircraft, not military aircraft, according to a second administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. But if the State Department requests military aircraft, the U.S. military would be ready to assist, the official said.
Tracey Jacobson, a three-time chief of mission in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kosovo, is leading the State Department coordination unit that will deliver on the president’s commitment under Operation Allies Refuge. That unit also includes representatives from the defense and homeland security departments.
Russ Travers, deputy homeland security adviser and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, is coordinating the interagency policy process on Operation Allies Refuge, officials said.
Separately, the White House announced that Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the White House homeland security adviser, would lead a U.S. delegation to a security conference in Uzbekistan this week to discuss Afghanistan’s security issues with leaders from the Central 5 — Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia — and other regional players.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan reconciliation, are also expected to take part in the conference.
U.S. officials have said that one possibility under discussion is to relocate the Afghan visa applicants to neighboring countries in Central Asia, where they could be protected from possible retaliation by the Taliban or other groups.
Frankly, we should be giving these folks a tickertape parade and full US citizenship for their lives, not to mention 20 years of military back pay for risking their lives along with our troops in the Sandbox for two decades, but getting them out of Dodge is literally the least we could do for them and their families.
I'm glad Biden is doing this, but it's not like he had any choice.
Here's hoping they all get out safely.