WASHINGTON — The collapse of Afghanistan’s government led lawmakers and advocates to urge the Biden administration to rapidly evacuate thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. during its lengthy war there.
The U.S. has evacuated around 2,000 applicants for the Afghan special immigrant visa program and their families, but as many as 50,000 remain in the nation now under control of the Taliban, advocates estimate. The U.S. has slots for 34,500 under its SIV program.
The State and Defense departments said Sunday they are working to evacuate “particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.” The departments also pledged to “accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant visas.”
In a joint statement, the two departments said the U.S. is working to secure the airport in Kabul with the aid of nearly 6,000 troops. On Twitter, videos circulated Sunday of desperate Afghans clinging to U.S. Air Force planes flying out of Kabul in an effort to escape the country, with some falling to their deaths as the aircraft took flight.
“For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened,” the State and Defense statement said.
For many lawmakers and immigrant advocates who have spent months sounding the alarm on the danger faced by Afghan allies in the face of a Taliban takeover, it was too little, too late.
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