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Sunday November 28th

US opens new routes for Afghan allies to evacuate

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Hailey Ruane
Staff Writer

In just a little over a week, the Taliban has swiftly taken complete control over Afghanistan, causing millions throughout the country to flee their homes and seek safety outside of the borders. The Taliban has terrorized the population for decades, but escaping their power is as urgent as ever due to the Aug. 31 deadline for U.S troops to leave the country. According to CNBC, 48,000 people have been evacuated since Aug. 14, and placed in temporary locations including U.S camps throughout the Middle East and Europe.

Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) will be given to Afghans who assisted the United States during the 20-year military campaign which would give those people an opportunity to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. The process involves multiple steps and is incredibly time-consuming due to lengthy biometric and biographic background checks at different stages. According to CNN, “the US brought several flights of Afghan SIV applicants who were at the very end stages of the process and their family members to Fort Lee, Virginia, to finish the process. Now, flights out of Kabul are transiting through countries like Qatar and Kuwait.”

With such a short amount of time, the massive number of SIVs and those who are eligible for other programs have a much lower chance of leaving the country before Aug. 31(Flickr).

Although SIVs may seem to be an efficient way to help Afghan refugees, Sunil Varghese, policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project reported to CNN that, “it's basically a black box. You put your name in and you hope the name comes out. You don't know what's happening and you don't know why it's taking years."

Those who have already completed more steps in the SIV process prior to the Taliban takeover are still a long way from finding a permanent home inside the U.S, and even though the main goal is removing these civilians from Afghanistan, they have been scattered throughout the Middle East and Europe in temporary camps.

The U.S still has plans for the refugees who do not qualify for an SIV and, according to CBS, the Biden administration introduced a new category for Afghans who worked with U.S-based news outlets and non-governmental organizations in Biden’s P-2 Program.

According to the U.S. State Department, citizens who are eligible for the P-2 Program include those “who do not meet the minimum time-in-service for an SIV but who work or worked as employees of contractors, locally-employed staff, interpreters/translators for the U.S. Government, United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support, Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement, and Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization.”

This new category will help move along the documentation process, since the SIV Program has been backlogged for years, as well as giving more opportunities to those trying to leave the country. As reported by The Conversation, “But during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, just 11,800 refugees from around the world settled in the U.S. – among them were only 495 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa recipients. That number seems tiny compared to the approximately 20,000 Afghans who are currently in the pipeline waiting for an SIV and the additional 70,000 Afghans — including applicants and their immediate family members — who are eligible to apply.”

The most pressing matter is the time limit that has been put into place. With such a short amount of time, the massive number of SIVs and those who are eligible for other programs have a much lower chance of leaving the country before Aug. 31. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, told CNN, “I think it's very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders and women leaders. It's hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month."

The Aug. 31 deadline is one that could still potentially be pushed back in order to maximize the number of people who can be taken out of Afghanistan. The date being moved also requires cooperation from both the Taliban and the U.S. According to Business Insider, President Biden stated “The sooner we can finish the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops, but the completion by Aug. 31 depends upon the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport to those we're transporting out — and no disruptions to our operations."

If the Taliban decides against allowing the deadline to be pushed back, the urgency of getting SIVs completed and civilians into the P-2 Programs will be more pressed for time than ever. The possible date that could be used instead of Aug. 31 would be Sep. 11. There was plenty of debate about pushing this date back during the G-7 country meeting which took place on Aug. 23 which included Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. According to AP News, President Biden seemed firm about avoiding moving the deadline because, “the risk of terror attacks was too great to accede to appeals from G-7 leaders to keep what are now 5,800 American troops at Kabul’s airport beyond the end of the month, anchoring the airlifts.”

According to CNN, Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat who is insistent on changing the deadline, stated, “We're in a different world now than we were in when that date was originally set. We have to respond to that different world and that different reality. We have to get the mission done," Crow said. "The deadline is when the mission is accomplished and we bring our people. Full stop.”


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