The Biden Administration announced on Wednesday that Afghan interpreters and translators who helped American soldiers during the 20-year war in Afghanistan would be evacuated out of the country at the end of the month.
The Operation Allies Refuge flights out of Afghanistan during the last week of July will be available first for special immigrant visa applicants already in the process of applying for U.S. residency.
“The reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals,” Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, said. “We want to make sure we recognize and value the role they’ve played over the last several years.”
Tracey Jacobsen, an American diplomat, will work with the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security to execute the mission.
According to the Army Times, more than 18,000 Afghans have applied for a visa to become United States residents.
In April, President Joe Biden announced that he would withdraw the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary (September 11) of two planes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
However, the withdrawal process is well underway and is now set to be complete by Aug 31.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” President Biden said. “I am now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
Not everyone is excited about President Biden’s decision. On Wednesday, German-run Deutsche Welle asked former President George W. Bush, who declared a global war on terrorism and Afghanistan, if President Biden’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was a mistake.
“I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only US troops, but NATO troops and they’re just, it seems like they’re just gonna be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart,” Bush said.
The Biden administration has also been working on identifying a third country or U.S. territory that could host the Afghans while their visa applications are processed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the withdrawal an “embarrassment.”
“The dangers facing the Afghan people, especially, especially women and girls, are heartbreaking. The humanitarian crisis may well be historic. But this is also an awful, bungled mess from the perspective of our own national security,” McConnell said.
“Ending our presence in Afghanistan will not end the terrorists’ war against us. Sadly, the opposite is likely to be true. This self-inflicted wound could very well make this struggle even more difficult and even more dangerous.”
“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” the President said.
The consequences for President Biden’s decision are not obvious but George W. Bush’s decision to send troops to Afghanistan in 2001 came after his desire to win the “war on terrorism” — a victory that had important political implications.