According to the U.S. Department of State, more than 60,000 Afghan interpreters and others who have applied for visas to seek shelter in the U.S. after working alongside American forces still remain in Afghanistan. This is the first time that the Department of State has provided a number on those left behind since the Afghanistan government collapsed this summer.
About 33,000 Afghans, including principal applicants and their families, have already cleared the necessary security measures and could be eligible for immediate evacuation, according to a Department of State official.
The U.S. is currently operating a few evacuation flights per week, but scheduling depends on conditions at Kabul airport—which is only partly operational—and the weather. It could take until well into 2022 to complete the evacuation of those who already qualify for flights.
Afghan visa applicants left behind are increasingly desperate to leave due to deteriorating economic conditions in the country. Many fear retribution from the Taliban.
Kianoush, who was approved for an evacuation flight that was scheduled to take place the week that Kabul collapsed in August, is among the thousands waiting for news of a flight. He has been hiding after working on sensitive projects alongside U.S. forces at the Afghan interior ministry. “We are jobless and the winter is coming. There is no food, or clear future,” he said in a telephone interview.
Mustafa, an American who worked as an interpreter for U.S. forces, said he took on responsibility for his sister and six children after her husband was believed killed in the bombing at Kabul’s airport. He is staying behind with hope that a private volunteer organization will evacuate him with his sister and children because she would struggle to survive on her own without a male guardian.
“Mustafa could have left long ago as an American citizen,” said a spokesperson for Task Force Argo, a volunteer group trying to help him. “He is staying back to protect his family and they are all waiting together in Kabul for an evacuation option that helps non-passport-holders.”
The Department of State said it must follow U.S. immigration law in regard to evacuations and that only those eligible to enter the U.S. can be evacuated. The U.S. no longer has a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, a factor adding to the difficulty in processing cases.
“We are processing applications as fast as we possibly can,” a Department of State official said. “We have identified process improvements and directed additional resources to the program, including by augmenting staff in Washington to process applications.”
Read Full Article from The Wall Street Journal (12/16/21)
Author: Donati, Jessica
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