221 Afghans who helped the United States during the Afghanistan War arrived in Dulles, Virginia early Friday, after a long trip from their home country. The video above shows clips of U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson talking about the trip.
Those who made the trip include interpreters, translators, and their families. They fear retaliation from the Taliban for helping the U.S.
The Biden administration announced Operation Allies Refuge earlier in July. The 221 Afghans were granted special visas to stay in the U.S. Future flights are expected to bring more of the roughly 700 applicants who are farthest along in the process of getting visas. On Thursday, Congress approved legislation that would allow an additional 8,000 visas and $500 million in funding for the Afghan visa program.
President Joe Biden called the flight “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.” He said he wanted to honor the military veterans, diplomats and others in the U.S. who have advocated for the Afghans.
“Most of all,” President Biden said in a statement, “I want to thank these brave Afghans for standing with the United States, and today, I am proud to say to them: ‘Welcome home.’”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also praised the Afghans for their work, saying their arrival in the U.S. demonstrates the government’s commitment to them.
Earlier in July, Biden said the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan would end on Aug. 31, calling it “overdue.” Some administration officials said they were surprised at the extent and speed of Taliban gains of territory in the countryside since then.
Biden said although U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, the U.S. will keep supporting Afghanistan through security assistance to Afghan forces and humanitarian and development aid to the Afghan people.
“We will also continue our diplomatic support for the peace process,” Biden said. “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 the peace and security they deserve.”