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First wave of Afghan interpreters evacuated to US

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KABUL: As the withdrawal of US troops in well on track, the first group of interpreters and local assistants to the US Army has been evacuated from Afghanistan to the United States with their family members, according to reports on Friday.

The group, which includes 2,500 people, will be temporarily housed at the Fort Lee military base until their special immigrant visas are processed.

One of the Pentagon’s main challenges has been the fear of evacuating these translators after the withdrawal of US troops and the threat of death by the Taliban and militant groups.

The Special Immigrant Visa Program, known as the SIV, which has been in place since 2009 for individuals who have worked with the US government and US-led forces in Afghanistan, promises prompt and specific processing of immigration and residency applications.

With the rise of Taliban attacks in recent months and the official start of the withdrawal of US troops, the threat of death against those Afghans who aided US forces has increased.

During the residency visa review and medical examinations, the group will be housed at Fort Lee Military Base in Virginia, 370 km from Washington.

This is as the US Congress approved a $1 billion bill to Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday to allocate for thousands of Afghans who worked with US forces in its 20-year war.

According to the US State Department, about 70,000 Afghans have settled in the United States since 2008.

Last week, a senior US State Department official said another 20,000 applications were still being processed. Mike Jason, a former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, has said that traveling to Taliban-held areas for Afghans who have worked with the US government poses a serious “risk of death” for them.

An NGO “No One Left Behind” estimates that 300 Afghan translators working with the US military and government in Afghanistan have been killed so far.

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