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Afghans Who Worked With Foreign Troops Face Reprisal Killings


Early this morning, about 200 Afghan interpreters landed in Virginia after a long flight from Kabul. For a dozen years, the U.S. has been granting visas to Afghans who worked alongside U.S. forces. What's different now is that American troops have almost completely withdrawn, and the Taliban are violently taking back parts of the country. And they're sometimes executing Afghans who worked with foreign troops. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: This was the first flight to bring out interpreters who have all but completed the lengthy background checks for the Special Immigrant Visa process. With their families, there are a total of 2,500 Afghans expected in this first wave. But some estimates say as many as 70,000 interpreters and family members are still working through the red tape. Taliban gains have them feeling desperate. Ambassador Tracey Jacobson heads the Biden administration's new Afghanistan task force. And she tried to be reassuring on a conference call.


TRACEY JACOBSON: We will continue to relocate eligible SIV applicants and their families, who have our gratitude for their service. I also want to underscore that the U.S. partnership with Afghanistan is continuing. Even as we're withdrawing our forces, we're remaining very much engaged in Afghanistan.

LAWRENCE: That's despite the surprising gains the Taliban have made across the country, cutting off many roads between Kabul and the provinces. The Association of Wartime Allies, which supports Afghan interpreters, estimates that 40% of them now live in areas outside government control. Ambassador Jacobson said that without U.S. troops on the ground, there isn't much the U.S. can do to help them.


JACOBSON: We're going to be moving folks as fast as we logistically can. We do lack the capacity to bring people to Kabul from other parts of the country or to house them in Kabul itself.

LAWRENCE: She said the White House is looking in the coming weeks to move Afghan interpreters to a third country, where they can complete the lengthy U.S. visa process in safety. Quil Lawrence, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF AK AND TIM SCHAUFERT'S "TIDES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Quil Lawrence is a New York-based correspondent for NPR News, covering veterans' issues nationwide. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of American veterans and a Gracie Award for coverage of female combat veterans. In 2019 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America honored Quil with its IAVA Salutes Award for Leadership in Journalism.