Later this month, the United States will start evacuating Afghan translators and interpreters who worked for the U.S. military, the White House announced Wednesday.
As part of Operation Allies Refuge, people who have already applied for special immigrant visas will be put on flights out of Afghanistan, starting the last week of July. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters she would not say how many people are eligible, for "operational and security reasons." She said the United States' "objective is to get individuals who are eligible relocated out of the country" prior to the withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of August.
About 18,000 Afghans who worked for the U.S. military are eligible for the special immigrant visas, and about 9,000 have started the process, which can take several years to complete. Many of these workers have reported receiving death threats from the Taliban, who have accused them of being spies for the U.S., and they are worried that once U.S. forces are gone from Afghanistan, the Taliban will hurt or kill them.
"The reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals," Psaki said. "We want to make sure we recognize and value the role they've played over the last several years."
The Biden administration has not said where the Afghans will go as they wait for their visas to be approved. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that there are several "potential candidates," but no final decision has been made.