President Joe Biden’s administration is launching “Operation Allies Refuge” to help with relocation flights for certain Afghan nationals who aided the U.S. during the war, according to a senior administration official.
The withdrawal process from Afghanistan is essentially complete, although Biden announced earlier in July that the mission “will conclude on August 31,” ahead of the former Sept. 11 deadline. The Taliban has been quickly taking over districts throughout the region as the U.S. withdraws, raising concern for those still in Afghanistan who helped the U.S.
“Operation Allies Refuge” will support relocation flights for Afghan nationals and their families who not only helped the U.S. but are also in the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program, the senior administration official said.
The SIV program was created by Congress in 2009 to help provide safety for Afghan interpreters and others connected with American programs, the Voice of America previously reported.
For those already in the SIV pipeline, flights out of Afghanistan will begin at the end of July, the official noted. The official declined to give specific details on the flights for security reasons, but did say that Ambassador Tracey Jacobson will lead the State Department Coordination Unit responsible for this initiative.
Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Russ Travers will work on the interagency policy process for the operation. Department of Defense and Homeland Security representatives will work with Jacobson in his unit, according to the official.
Biden said during a speech on July 8 that he “trusts the capacity of” the Afghan military. The president called them “better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war” than the Taliban, despite takeover reports. (RELATED: Taliban Takeover Of Critical Areas During Biden Withdrawal Suggests Grim Future For Afghanistan)
“The Afghan government and leadership has to come together. They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place,” Biden said during his speech. “The question is, will they generate the kind of cohesion to do it. It is not a question of whether they have the capacity. They have the capacity. They have the forces. They have the equipment. The question is will they do it.”
The senior administration official reiterated the president’s belief in the Afghan military and said they believe the conflict will be resolved through negotiations.