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World Afghan who aided U.S. arrive at Virginia base, but many others remain in peril

13:02  30 july  2021
13:02  30 july  2021 Source:   latimes.com

Taliban Has 'No Intention or Willingness' for Peace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Says

  Taliban Has 'No Intention or Willingness' for Peace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Says Three rockets were fired at the presidential palace in a suspected Taliban attack, though no injuries were reported."The Taliban have no intention and willingness for peace," Ghani said. "We have proven that we have the intention, the willingness and have sacrificed for peace.

The first group of Afghan interpreters and contractors who aided U.S. military and diplomatic missions was expected to arrive in the U.S. overnight Thursday. The flight was part of a frantic Biden administration effort to evacuate thousands of people potentially facing retribution in Afghanistan from a resurgent Taliban amid the withdrawal of American forces.

a group of people riding on the back of a bicycle: Taliban supporters carry their signature white flags after the group's seizure of Spin Buldak, a border town near Pakistan, in July 2021. (Tariq Achkzai / Associated Press ) © (Tariq Achkzai / Associated Press ) Taliban supporters carry their signature white flags after the group's seizure of Spin Buldak, a border town near Pakistan, in July 2021. (Tariq Achkzai / Associated Press )

But the 200 or so individuals on the initial flight from Kabul amount to just a fraction of the tens of thousands of Afghans increasingly desperate to flee their country amid rising violence.

Afghan interpreter for US Army was beheaded by Taliban. Others fear a similar fate

  Afghan interpreter for US Army was beheaded by Taliban. Others fear a similar fate Sohail Pardis was driving from his home in Afghanistan's capital Kabul to nearby Khost province to pick up his sister for the upcoming Eid holiday celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan. © Family Handout Sohail Pardis, an Afghan translator who worked for the US Army, was killed by the Taliban in May. It was supposed to be a happy occasion enjoyed with family. But during the five-hour trip on May 12, as Pardis, 32, drove through a stretch of desert, his vehicle was blocked at a checkpoint by Taliban militants.

They were due to arrive overnight at Ft. Lee, an Army base in central Virginia, where they'll remain for a week while undergoing security and medical screenings, before they are resettled across the country. About 2,500 Afghans are set to arrive in the U.S. in the coming weeks, the administration said. Of those, roughly 700 worked as interpreters, guides or contractors alongside U.S. forces and received special immigrant visas along with their families.

"This flight represents a fulfillment of the U.S. commitment and honors these Afghans' brave service in helping support our mission in Afghanistan," said Russ Travers, senior deputy Homeland Security advisor on the National Security Council.

According to the administration, all visa recipients were tested for the coronavirus before flying and offered the COVID-19 vaccine in Kabul before departure.

Afghanistan: US general McKenzie vows to continue airstrikes supporting Afghan troops fighting Taliban

  Afghanistan: US general McKenzie vows to continue airstrikes supporting Afghan troops fighting Taliban The US will continue airstrikes in support of Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, a top US general said Sunday. © Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images Head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, speaks during a press conference at the former Resolute Support headquarters in the US embassy compound in Kabul on July 25, 2021. Violence has surged across the country in recent months after the Taliban launched a sweeping assault just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal. Speaking to reporters Sunday in Kabul, Gen.

The first arrivals came just hours after Congress took action to expand the Afghan special immigrant visa program by approving $1.1 billion in additional funding to cover the costs of processing applications and transporting, screening and resettling an additional 8,000 Afghans desperate to flee their country.

The money is part of a $2.1-billion supplemental budget bill, which included money to reimburse the National Guard for expenses incurred during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, as well as extra funding for Capitol Police. The bipartisan proposal passed the Senate 98-0 on Thursday afternoon and was approved by the House hours later by a vote of 416-11.

"We must stand with the brave Afghans who supported our mission through two decades of war," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), one of the co-sponsors of the legislation. "By now, we have all seen the reports of men and women being summarily executed in the street. The slaughter will only escalate. We must provide resources for additional special immigrant visas for translators and other Afghans who worked with Americans over the past two decades, as well as for additional humanitarian relief to Afghan refugees."

Overnight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill

  Overnight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.THE TOPLINE: The independent watchdog created by Congress to scrutinize the war in Afghanistan eviscerated the U.S. government's handling of the conflict and said such mistakes are certain to be repeated.John Sopko, the specialTHE TOPLINE: The independent watchdog created by Congress to scrutinize the war in Afghanistan eviscerated the U.S. government's handling of the conflict and said such mistakes are certain to be repeated.

But it's still highly unlikely that the Biden administration, which has ordered all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, will be able to evacuate the roughly 20,000 Afghans who are seeking the visas by that deadline.

More than 70,000 Afghans have received special immigrant visas since 2008.

As U.S. forces have departed, the Taliban has overtaken the country's roads, leaving the Afghan government with one airfield from which refugees can depart.

"We're going be moving folks as fast as we logistically can," said Ambassador Tracey Jacobson, a member of the State Department's Afghanistan coordination task force, who acknowledged that Taliban gains have made evacuating Afghans increasingly difficult. "We do lack the capacity to bring people to Kabul from other parts of the country or to house them in Kabul itself."

She added that the administration was still "considering a variety of different options" to get vulnerable Afghans to safety.

Without a military rescue operation to airlift the thousands of Afghans seeking to flee the country, scores may be killed, especially with the Taliban having gained access to the U.S. database of biometric information — the fingerprints and retinal scans — of nearly all who aided the American war effort.

The first Afghan collaborators evacuated to the United States

 The first Afghan collaborators evacuated to the United States © Kevin Fray / AP An Afghan interpreter (d.) During an interview between American soldiers and an Afghan in 2009 (image of illustration). The first Afghan American military collaborators arrived tonight in the United States. 200 people have been evacuated to prevent the reprisals of the Taliban who resume control with the withdrawal of American troops ... with our correspondent in New York, Loubna Anaki Afghan interpreters, drivers, employees of the US embassy In Kabul, and their families ...

"When [the Taliban] scan your iris or fingerprint and it pops up in the database that you used to work for the Americans, they behead you right there on the side of the road," said Matt Zeller, chairman of the Assn. of Wartime Allies, an advocacy group that has been unable to persuade the Biden administration to take stronger action to ensure the safety of Afghan allies.

"What good is the visa to somebody who's dead? It takes 800 days on average right now for somebody to get that visa processed. These people don't have 800 days, or even 80 days at this point," Zeller said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken indicated Thursday that talks are ongoing with several Arab and Central Asian countries about temporarily relocating another group of about 4,000 Afghans to allow more time to review their visa applications and determine how to help them.

But on a 24-hour stop in Kuwait City to meet with the emir, crown prince and other top Kuwaiti officials, Blinken appeared visibly drained and disappointed as he apparently failed to reach an agreement with Kuwait on temporarily accepting Afghans seeking to reach the U.S. under the special visa program.

For weeks, the administration — under intense criticism for moving too slowly to help the Afghans whose lives are in jeopardy in a Taliban takeover — has been quietly telling journalists that Qatar and Kuwait would probably cooperate, and the topic may have been at the heart of Blinken's visit Thursday.

"We are talking to a number of countries about the possibility of temporarily relocating these applicants," Blinken said. "We are very much focused on making good on our obligations to those who stood with us."

Several regional allies are concerned about the looming U.S. departure and worry that additional Taliban gains will make Afghanistan a breeding ground for terrorist groups. Several are also dreading an inevitable influx of Afghan refugees fleeing expanding Taliban rule.

Times staff writers Tracy K. Wilkinson in Kuwait and Jennifer Haberkorn in Washington contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Afghan Air Force pilot killed in Kabul bombing, attack claimed by Taliban .
Afghan Air Force pilot killed in Kabul bombing, attack claimed by TalibanThe pilot, Hamidullah Azimi, died when a sticky bomb attached to his vehicle detonated, officials said, adding that five civilians were wounded in the explosion.

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