About 2,500 Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas will be temporarily housed at Fort Lee in Virginia, U.S. officials said Monday.
There are about 18,000 Afghans who are eligible for special immigrant visas, after working as interpreters, translators, and contractors for the U.S. military during the war in Afghanistan. Since the U.S. announced it is withdrawing all troops from the country later this summer, several Afghans who are waiting for their visa applications to go through have shared their concerns over the Taliban coming after them and their families as retribution for their work with the United States.
The Biden administration has promised to get the visa applicants out of Afghanistan starting in late July. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Monday said the 2,500 Afghans going to Fort Lee, a U.S. Army post, include interpreters and their family members who are "in the very final stages of the SIV process," having passed the State Department's screening. Fort Lee will be "just an initial location" for them, Kirby said, and they will probably only be there "a few days" before they start the resettlement process.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has granted approval for visas to about 4,000 other applicants, and they will be evacuated from Afghanistan to safety in other countries. Those accommodations could "last a number of months," Price added. "We are striving to shorten these processing times at every stage." To do this, additional government employees are being tasked with expediting the visas of thousands of applicants.