Thousands of Afghan interpreters and their families will be hosted at US bases in Qatar and Kuwait while their US visas are being finalised, officials have said.
Afghan interpreters are seeking refuge in the US as their work, helping American forces in Afghanistan, put them in the firing line of the Taliban, who are growing in power as Western forces pull out of the country.
The applicants will stay at US military bases in Qatar and Kuwait, providing the host nations agree, US officials told Politico.
As of today, neither country has confirmed they will host the Afghan nationals, but officials say an agreement is “close”.
They added that additional countries in the Middle East and Europe are being considered as host countries for the interpreters, although no formal agreement has been reached.
Last week, it was reported the Biden administration will evacuate Afghan nationals who aided the US army during its intervention in Afghanistan – following a 2001 invasion of the country – as early as this month.
“For operational security, we won’t have additional details on when flights will depart, but we will meet the president’s commitment to begin flights this month,” an official told The Washington Post at the time.
Dubbed “Operation Allies Refuge”, it will support “interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have supported the United States and our partners in Afghanistan and are in the [special immigrant visa] application pipeline”.
The State, Defence and Homeland Security departments are coordinating the flights, which will commence in the last week of July.
Some 2,500 Afghan applicants will board a plane and be taken to Fort Lee army base in Virginia, where they will temporarily remain until their visa applications are near completion, the officials said.
“These are brave Afghans and their families whose service to the United States has been certified by the embassy in Kabul and have completed thorough SIV security vetting processes,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said of the first round of interpreters who will reach the US in the coming days.
“We’re going to give these people a safe place to stay for a few days while they finish the processing that they have to finish before they can then be resettled elsewhere in the United States,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby added.
It is believed that approximately 18,000 pending applications remain for the Special Immigrant Visa programme.
On Monday, Biden released a statement supporting a bipartisan bill that sped up the long application process and how quickly officials can process visas.