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White House confirms it plans to evacuate 18,000 Afghans who worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan

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The White House has informed some lawmakers that it plans to evacuate approximately 18,000 Afghans who worked for the U.S. as translators. These Afghans will be able to leave Afghanistan to be temporarily relocated to a yet-to-be-named third country or territory for their own safety, as the Taliban begins to retake more districts during the phased withdrawal of American troops, which President Biden has said will be completed by September 11. 

They face retribution, and even death, at the hands of the Taliban because of their association with the U.S. Hundreds have already been killed. 

At this point, however, the administration is “just getting started on much of this,” according to a senior White House official. Asked Thursday about plans to resettle these Afghan nationals in other countries, President Biden promised, “They’re going to come. We’ve already begun the process. Those who helped us are not going to be left behind.”

He told reporters he didn’t know which country would host them first, yet, but said that he would be discussing the issue with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is visiting Mr. Biden at the White House Friday.

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“They’re welcome here — just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us,” the president said. 

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Guam is one possible temporary destination for the Afghans. The U.S. island territory in the Western Pacific was was similarly used as a processing point during the Vietnam War, as well as for Kurdish refugees fleeing Northern Iraq in the 1990s. 

The U.S. plans to move thousands of Afghans with civilian airliners, falling back on military transport only if necessary.

At this point, not all of the 18,000 Afghans have completed — or even started — the 14-step special immigrant visa application process to obtain asylum. Only about 9,000 have begun their applications, so far, and around 5,500 have made it through the first third of the application. These numbers do not include immediate family members of the translators who would also be eligible to leave Afghanistan.  

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