The Biden administration said Monday it would evacuate about 2,500 Afghans who worked for the US government and their families to a military base in Virginia pending approval of their visas.
The administration informed Congress that the Afghans will be housed at Fort Lee, a sprawling Army base south of Richmond starting next week.
The administration announced earlier this month that it would soon begin relocating Afghan visa seekers under an initiative known as "Operation Allies Refuge."
The group to be housed at Fort Lee is just a small portion of the number of Afghans seeking refuge in the United States. Roughly 20,000 have expressed interest in applying for so-called "Special Immigrant Visas" to move to the US, but only about half of them are far enough along in the vetting process to be considered for relocation.
“At the president's direction, the Department of State is working to relocate interested, eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have been approved through the Special Immigrant Visa or SIV program,” Price said. “As you heard from the president, approximately 2500 Afghans and family members are currently eligible to finish special immigrant processing in the United States and will certainly provide more details as they become available.”
The announcement comes amid growing concerns for the safety of Afghans who served as translators and in other support roles for American troops and diplomats as the administration rapidly moves to complete the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
“We will continue to partner with the Afghan people, to partner with the Afghan government and support that diplomatic process that did receive a boost over the weekend from the joint declaration that was issued by the Afghan parties. Again, declarations are positive. What we are going to be looking for is the follow through and we expect to see that follow through in the coming days and weeks,” Ned Price, State Department spokesman.
It also comes one day after the leader of the Taliban said that his movement is committed to a political settlement to end decades of war in Afghanistan
However, insurgents have been battling in dozens of districts across the country to gain territory.
The statement by Maulawi Hibatullah Akhunzada came as Taliban leaders were meeting with a high-level Afghan government delegation in the Gulf state of Qatar to jump-start stalled peace talks.
The talks resumed Saturday, ahead of the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which in many parts of the world is expected to start Tuesday.
Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is in Qatar, previously expressed hopes for a reduction in violence and possibly a ceasefire over Eid al-Adha.