The official name of the Pentagon/State Department operation to extract Afghan interpreters, translators and other Afghans who supported our troops during America’s “longest war,” is “Operation Allies Refuge.”
The operation will evacuate more than 18,000 Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants “and will include Afghans at all stages of the application process and even those eligible for an application.”
When the immediate family members of these Afghans are included, the number of “refugees” could grow to 70,000.
This week, the Pentagon announced that 2,500 of those interpreters and their families who have already been cleared will be evacuated to the United States directly – specifically to the Army base Fort Lee Virginia.
There, the Afghans will be medically screened, housed, taken care of while they finish processing and are resettled elsewhere in the United States.
The first chartered flights of evacuating Afghans are expected to arrive before the end of the month.
Additional applicants could be relocated to U.S. military bases in Qatar and Kuwait if the host nations agree, and “[t]he Biden administration is also looking at U.S. bases elsewhere in the Middle East, Europe and the Asia-Pacific to house additional applicants at different stages in the process,” according to Politico.
I have titled this piece “Operation New Arrivals II” because this first stage of repatriation is reminiscent of another operation, 46 years ago, when the people of the United States opened up their hearts and arms to more than 125,000 South Vietnamese refugees who escaped South Vietnam in desperation after the “fall of Saigon” and were provided with housing, health and welfare and assistance with their resettlement at several military installations in the U.S.
At the time, describing the emotions of the American volunteers welcoming the refugees at the Eglin, Fla., Refugee Camp, I wrote in a military publication:
The character of a nation is reflected in the faces of those volunteers. Some have flowers in their hands, some have tears in their eyes, and all have compassion in their hearts.
It is hoped that the same spirit will exist with the newest “New Arrivals.”
In a comment to a previous piece on this subject, Dr. Clarissa Estés commented on possible “sponsorships” for our Afghan allies. I have not yet heard or read about such plans, but with this first step of bringing some of them to the U.S. directly, that step might not be too far behind.
However, a Canadian organization is already ahead of us in this respect.
According to The Star, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, an organization “counting retired military officers and diplomats among its ranks is looking for volunteers to welcome and help integrate any former Afghan interpreters and their families who end up being evacuated to Canada.”
Guy Thibault, chair of the institute and a retired lieutenant general: “We don’t know exactly what the needs are going to be…We’re just really trying to get ahead of it with a group of volunteers who have a connection to the whole story of Afghanistan.”
Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is working furiously to approve such a humanitarian effort, “[t]he veterans’ concerns have nonetheless only increased in recent days as the Taliban has advanced across much of Afghanistan, including into the province of Kandahar where Canada spent years fighting the group.”
“The lack of action has led to mounting frustration in the veterans’ community, with some saying they have sent money and other support to help relocate former interpreters, drivers, cultural advisers and others from Kandahar to safer parts of the country,” the Star reports.
Added: And here is VoteVets “Take them Too.”
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.