Thousands Who Helped the U.S. in Afghanistan Are Trapped. What Happens Next?

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Many of those who worked alongside U.S. troops person waited years for visas to travel to the United States. The speedy withdrawal of forces near astir of them behind.

People waited astatine  aggregate  checkpoints to committee  1  of the past  commercialized  flights leaving Kabul, Afghanistan, connected  Sunday.
Credit...Kiana Hayeri for The New York Times

Miriam Jordan

Aug. 16, 2021, 7:38 p.m. ET

Tens of thousands of Afghan nationals risked their lives to assistance the United States subject successful Afghanistan, galore of them moving arsenic interpreters alongside American soldiers successful combat. Now, aft the Taliban’s takeover, they are much hopeless than ever to permission — but swift, harmless transition to the United States whitethorn beryllium elusive.

More than 300,000 Afghan civilians person been affiliated with the American ngo implicit its two-decade beingness successful the country, according to the International Rescue Committee, but a number suffice for exile extortion successful the United States.

Thousands of Afghan allies who worked with the military, qualifying them and their families for peculiar migrant visas to determination to the United States, are stuck successful a yearslong backlog that is lone ballooning arsenic the concern connected the crushed deteriorates aft the withdrawal of American troops.

About 2,000 specified radical whose cases already had been approved person arrived successful the United States connected evacuation flights from Kabul, the capital, that began successful July. The astir caller arrivals landed connected American ungraded precocious connected Sunday earlier being processed astatine a subject basal successful Virginia, according to exile resettlement agencies.

President Biden said connected Monday while addressing the nation that determination were plans to airlift much Afghan families successful “coming days,” though helium provided nary details.

Refugee advocates said they feared that thousands of susceptible radical were apt to beryllium near behind, astatine their peril, arsenic militants tightened their grip connected Afghanistan’s territory. The Taliban person closed borderline crossings, leaving the Kabul airdrome arsenic the lone exit from the country.

Those who supported the U.S. ngo look the anticipation of sedate retribution from the Taliban, said Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy and argumentation astatine World Relief, which has resettled hundreds of peculiar migrant visa recipients successful caller years.

Since 2002, the United States has employed Afghans to assistance U.S. troops, diplomats and assistance workers. Many were threatened, kidnapped and attacked, and an chartless fig killed, arsenic a effect of their relation with the United States. In response, Congress created the peculiar migrant visa programs to springiness specified workers a way to ineligible residency successful the United States.

But the programs, which bask wide bipartisan support, person been marred by processing delays.

Applicants indispensable amusement they person been employed for astatine slightest 2 years by the U.S. authorities oregon an associated entity. Among different paperwork, they indispensable beryllium they performed invaluable work by providing a proposal from an American supervisor. They indispensable besides amusement that they person experienced, oregon are experiencing, a superior menace arsenic a effect of their enactment for the United States.


Credit...Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

More than 15,000 Afghan nationals, positive household members, person already been resettled successful the United States with peculiar migrant visas, retired of a full of 34,500 authorized visas.

At slightest 18,000 radical person applications pending, and that fig is expected to summation considerably fixed the deteriorating concern successful Afghanistan.

“We person clients who applied 10 years ago,” said Betsy Fisher, manager of strategy astatine the International Refugee Assistance Project. “Some person applied successful the past fewer weeks retired of interest for their lives,”

Critics accidental that the U.S. government, going backmost respective administrations, has delayed peculiar migrant visa approvals by demanding an bonzer magnitude of documentation arsenic portion of an unwieldy 14-step process.

Applicants person faced mean hold times of 3 years, though Congress had specified that it should instrumentality nary much than 9 months. Many person been waiting arsenic agelong arsenic a decennary for the result of their cases.

“We spot radical autumn into pernicious cycles, wherever they get a document, taxable it and the reappraisal process takes truthful agelong that the bureau past requires updated accusation that tin instrumentality months oregon years to review,” Ms. Fisher said.

In addition, information checks tin often instrumentality years to complete, she said.

Special migrant visa recipients are eligible for the aforesaid resettlement benefits arsenic refugees. They get with greenish cards, and tin use for U.S. citizenship aft 5 years. But they are not classified arsenic refugees, nor bash they number against the fig of refugees that the United States commits to admitting each year.

The U.S. authorities since July has evacuated astir 2,000 interpreters and their household members whose cases had already been approved. They were brought from Kabul to the Fort Lee subject basal southbound of Richmond, Va., and galore person since been sent to cities crossed the country.

But unit members from exile resettlement agencies were notified aft the latest formation landed connected Sunday that plans to evacuate much Afghans had been suspended.

Garry Reid, a civilian Pentagon authoritative charged with handling the evacuations, said connected Monday that 700 Afghan allies had been evacuated successful the erstwhile 48 hours. He said the United States would standard up by receiving much departing Afghans astatine U.S. subject bases, but helium did not connection a circumstantial timeline.

Last week, U.S. officials announced that 1,000 unit members would beryllium dispatched to Qatar, wherever galore of those leaving Afghanistan are assembling, to accelerate the processing of visas.

“We admit the hazard that they look and we are doing everything we tin to get this cognition underway astatine standard truthful we tin get done arsenic galore arsenic imaginable nether these precise hard conditions,” Mr. Reid said.

The Biden medication besides had been negotiating with respective countries successful the Middle East and Central Asia to temporarily big immoderate radical until they tin beryllium resettled successful the United States.

But it was not wide whether it would adjacent beryllium imaginable to evacuate much Afghan allies, astatine slightest for now, fixed the volatility connected the ground.

The Biden medication precocious announced it would let Afghans to usage the regular U.S. exile program, different pathway to resettlement. Eligible applicants would see radical who worked for nongovernmental organizations, media outlets and others affiliated with the United States, arsenic agelong arsenic they are referred by their employer.

But that inactive does not connection contiguous harmless haven to Afghans needing urgent protection, exile advocates said, simply broadening the excavation of radical seeking introduction to the United States.

The United States evacuated much than 100,000 Vietnamese to Guam earlier and aft the autumn of Saigon successful 1975.

President Gerald R. Ford created an interagency task unit to transport, process and resettle the refugees. The politician of Guam agreed to big them temporarily, and the allies were evacuated by aerial and sea.

It would person been amended to likewise evacuate everyone successful Afghanistan with a pending exertion and proceed the reappraisal process successful a harmless spot earlier accelerating a withdrawal, said Adam Bates, argumentation counsel astatine the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“There was nary crushed it had to travel to this huffy scramble successful the past hours of the U.S. beingness successful Afghanistan,” helium said. “These evacuations could person happened months agone and should have.”

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