The Biden administration announced on Monday a plan to evacuate about 2,500 Afghans who worked for the U.S. government, as well as their families, to a military base in Virginia, pending approval of their visas, has begun.
The administration announced earlier this month that it would soon begin relocating Afghan visa seekers under an initiative known as “Operation Allies Refuge.”
The administration informed Congress that the Afghans will be housed at Fort Lee, an expansive Army base south of Richmond starting next week, according to a Defense Department notice sent to lawmakers.
The notice stated: “These initial relocation flights, the first under Operation Allies Refuge led by the State Department, will place America’s commitment to those who have helped us into action-providing transportation to secure locations at which the requirements of the (visa) process can be safely and thoroughly completed.”
The announcement, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, came amid growing concerns for the safety of Afghans who served as translators and in other support roles for American troops and diplomats as the administration rapidly moves to complete the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Members of Congress have expressed rising alarm about the fate of Afghans who worked for the U.S. over the past 20 years, particularly as the Taliban has stepped up military operations against the Afghan government in recent weeks, seizing control of major portions of the country as U.S. troops withdraw.
The group to be housed at Fort Lee make up just a small portion of the number of Afghans seeking refuge in the United States. Roughly 20,000 have expressed interest in applying for “Special Immigrant Visas” to move to the U.S., but only about half are far enough along in the vetting process to be considered for relocation.