Washington [US], July 30 (ANI): The first flight evacuating Afghans who worked alongside Americans in Afghanistan has brought more than 200 people to the United States. Friday's arrival at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., brought Afghan translators and close family members, including scores of children and infants to start a new life in the United States.
US President Joe Biden on Friday thanked Afghans for standing with America against the Taliban and welcomed the arrival of the first flight of Operation Allies Refuge.
"Most of all, I want to thank these brave Afghans for standing with the United States, and today, I am proud to say to them: "Welcome home," said Biden in a statement.
The U.S. plans several more flights for Afghan translators who fear retaliation from the Taliban as U.S. forces leave Afghanistan.
"Today is an important milestone as we continue to fulfill our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan," added Biden.
The first group of approved Afghan applicants for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) touched down and travelled to Fort Lee, an army post in Virginia. Of the 20,000 people in the SIV pipeline, about 10,000 have only just begun the process, the State Department said in recent weeks.
US officials have said they are looking to relocate some applicants to US military bases, like Fort Lee, and even to third countries so they can complete the application and clearance process in relative safety.
However, applicants who are selected to take advantage of the US evacuation flights will have to get themselves to Kabul, despite the dangers such a journey could present as the Taliban has set up checkpoints across the country.
These first Afghans are able to come directly to the United States because they have already completed extensive background checks and security screening by the Intelligence Community and the Departments of State and Homeland Security.
They will complete the final steps of their visa applications and required medical checks at Fort Lee, in Virginia, before travelling onward to begin their new lives in the United States.
"I want to honour all those in the United States who have spoken out on behalf of these brave Afghans, including the proud community of veterans, who have consistently advocated for the Afghans who were by their side in the field in Afghanistan, often serving as translators and interpreters.
And I want to thank the diplomats and public servants across our government and around the world who are working tirelessly as part of Operation Allies Refuge," said Biden.
"Although US troops are leaving, we will continue to support Afghanistan through security assistance to Afghan forces, as well as humanitarian and development aid to the Afghan people to help them sustain their achievements of the past 20 years," added US President.
"We will also continue our diplomatic support for the peace process. We call for an immediate reduction in violence in Afghanistan, and for all regional actors to encourage the parties to return to negotiations without delay so that the Afghan people can achieve a durable and just political settlement that brings peace and security they deserve," said Biden. (ANI)