First group of evacuated Afghan interpreters arrives in US
|bbc.com 29 Jul 2021 at 17:22|
The SIV programme is offered to those who worked with the US government or American-led military forces during the Afghanistan war, which began in 2001.
Threats against Afghans who helped the US have risen amid Taliban advances.
The US state department confirmed to the BBC on Thursday that the flight had landed safely.
The Army will house the 2,500 Afghans at Fort Lee while they finish the vetting process, medical screening and other requirements for the visa.
Since 2008, approximately 70,000 Afghans who have received SIVs have been resettled in the country, according to US officials.
Last week, a senior state department official said that the total number of SIV applicants stands just over 20,000. About half have yet to complete the first steps of the process.
Mike Jason, a former US Army battalion commander who deployed to Afghanistan, told the BBC that travelling across Taliban-controlled areas with the documentation needed for SIVs puts the translators in "mortal danger".
"That s basically an entire confession that you re an interpreter working for the Americans," he says. "We re asking them to travel with the evidence."
The not-for-profit No One Left Behind estimates that at least 300 Afghan allies or family members have been killed.
The Taliban were removed from power by the US-led invasion in 2001.
Fighting between the insurgent Taliban and Afghan government forces has increased over the past two months as international troops pull out of the country.
The Taliban claimed recently that their fighters had retaken 85% of the country - but this figure is disputed by the government and impossible to verify independently.