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US military sends its Afghan employees to place near Washington

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file photo taken on March 12, 2002 US army soldiers disembark from a CH-46 Chinook helicopter at Bagram Air Base. (Photo by AFP)

The US military has begun relocating Afghan nationals who worked with American forces to a military base near Washington.

Media reported on Monday that translators and others employed by the US occupant forces were housed at an army base about 200km south of Washington, DC.

The Afghans aiding the US war machine, and their families, who fear retribution from the Taliban militants after regaining control of the country if the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, will be awaiting final approval of their visas at the army base.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Fort Lee in Virginia will serve as “the initial relocation site for the pool of applicants who are closest to completing special immigrant processing.”

The news comes as the White House has also been considering evacuating the Afghans to a third country outside of Afghanistan and America until their US visas are granted.

Fort Lee will briefly host up to 2,500 applicants and their families who have completed the security vetting process, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

For the first batch the final steps of the visa process, including medical screenings and other paperwork, will be carried out "safely" in the United States.

Kirby added that the Defense Department was considering relocating another batch of 2,500 Afghan nationals at separate military installations, but declined to share further information.

The batch in Fort Lee includes 700 who qualify for the Special Immigrant Visa program; the remaining 1,800 Afghans are their family members.

The Pentagon expects the Afghan nationals to stay at Fort Lee for only few days before heading to their permanent housing.

The US military will provide food and water, medical care, and “as much comfort as we can ... in the short span of time that they are going to be there,” Kirby pointed out.

It is still unclear which US ministry -- the Defense Department or the State Department -- will cover the expenses of the arriving Afghan nationals who had served the US in their homeland, Kirby noted.

Meanwhile, the White House has opened talks with the government of Uzbekistan to temporarily house the Afghan nationals which it had employed for its war campaign in Afghanistan.

Before talking to Uzbekistan, the White House had made a failed attempt to resolve the matter by settling the Afghan help in Tajikistan.

Guam was another option the White House had considered to evacuate the approximately 18,000 Afghans, who qualified for the special US visas due to the danger posed by the Taliban against them, for temporary housing.

Meanwhile, the US exit from Afghanistan is almost completed as representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban militants hold peace talks in Doha to decide a future security structure in the war-ravaged country.

Price said on Monday that the US “welcomes” the talks, admitting that a lasting peace could only be achieved through a "negotiated settlement".


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