The United States plans to evacuate at least some Afghan interpreters who have worked with US forces before the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, a senior official said Thursday.
The move would keep interpreters, who face violent retaliation from Taliban forces, safe while their special immigrant visas (SIVs) are processed, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We have identified a group of SIV applicants who have served as interpreters and translators to be relocated elsewhere outside Afghanistan before we complete our military downsizing in September, in order to complete the visa application process,” said the official.
The official did not specify the number of interpreters or their destinations, but said their visa applications “were already in process.”
Even after the military withdrawal, visa processing will continue, “even for those who remain in Afghanistan,” the official said, adding: “If necessary, we will consider additional relocation or evacuation options.”
US President Joe Biden said later Thursday: “Those who helped us will not be left behind.”
When asked where interpreters could be sent temporarily, Biden said he did not know.
Some 18,000 Afghans who have worked with US forces, including as interpreters, hope to move to the United States, fearing revenge attacks by Taliban militants if they return to power.
But the process is extremely long and they risk being stranded without a visa if the Afghan government collapses shortly after the departure of foreign troops.
Many congressional representatives and human rights organizations urge the Biden government to evacuate Afghans with pending cases to the Pacific island of Guam, a US territory.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that evacuation planning is underway, though he said some details were not finalized yet and he would not provide details due to security concerns.
Kirby said it was a “huge responsibility” to care for the people who were crucial to America’s two-decade mission in Afghanistan.
“We are taking this seriously. We know that we have an obligation to these men and women and their families,” he told reporters.
“Planning is ongoing, there are many options available.”
Kirby declined to say how many people could be eliminated; He said a widely speculated figure of 100,000 is too high.
In April, Biden ordered the 2,500 remaining troops out of Afghanistan before September 11, 2021, the anniversary of the 2001 attacks that triggered the US invasion.
But many worry that withdrawing US troops before all Afghan support personnel are evacuated could leave those vulnerable to Taliban violence.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)