The United States will use military bases in Qatar and Kuwait to temporarily house thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators who assisted the Pentagon during the war and now face retribution from the Taliban.
Media reports quoting a congressional source said on Wednesday that arrangements with the two Arab countries are “basically done deals.”
Neither country has approved Washington’s request to host the Afghans, but an agreement is “close,” according to a US official whose name was not mentioned in the reports.
The White House has also considering evacuating the Afghans to a third country until their US visas are granted.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday that the Fort Lee base in Virginia will serve as “the initial relocation site for the pool of applicants who are closest to completing special immigrant processing.”
On Monday, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said Fort Lee will briefly host up to 2,500 applicants and their families who have completed the security vetting process. Kirby added that the Defense Department was considering relocating another batch of 2,500 Afghan nationals at separate military installations.
In recent weeks, the administration of President Joe Biden has come under intense bipartisan pressure to fast-track thousands of pending applications for the Special Immigrant Visa program.
The Biden administration was reportedly also looking at US bases elsewhere in West Asia, Europe and the Asia-Pacific to house additional applicants at different stages in the process.
Meanwhile, the White House has opened talks with the government of Uzbekistan to temporarily house the Afghan nationals it had employed for its campaign in Afghanistan.
Before talking to Uzbekistan, the White House had made a failed attempt to resolve the matter through Tajikistan.
Guam was another option the White House had considered to evacuate for temporary housing the approximately 18,000 Afghans, who qualified for the special US visas due to the danger posed by the Taliban against them.
Afghans who aided the US military during the war are increasingly being targeted by the Taliban as the militant group makes rapid gains across the war-ravaged country.
The US intelligence community has assessed that Afghanistan could fall to the Taliban in as little as six to 18 months.