U.S. to evacuate Afghan interpreters before completion of military withdrawal

A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walks with the unit’s Afghan interpreter before a mission near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan.

The United States will evacuate a group of vulnerable Afghan interpreters from the country before the U.S. military completes its withdrawal so the Afghans can wrap up their visa applications from safety, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The decision by President Joe Biden’s administration risks creating a sense of crisis in Afghanistan, just a day before Biden meets Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for talks at the White House aimed at projecting a sense of partnership despite the U.S. military exit.

The meeting comes as Taliban insurgents press a major offensive in Afghanistan, triggering growing concern in Congress for Afghan interpreters who worked for the U.S. military during its two-decade-long engagement and fear Taliban reprisals after American troops depart.

The U.S. officials did not disclose where the Afghans would be transported or say how many would be involved, but said the group consisted entirely of Afghans who have already started the visa process.

“Should it become necessary, we will consider additional relocation or evacuation options,” one of the officials said.

The United States military has completed more than half of its withdrawal from Afghanistan and is set to finish in the coming weeks.

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