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Biden Message to First Afghan Evacuees: 'Welcome Home'

First group of interpreters arrives in US, with hundreds more to be brought over to escape Taliban retaliation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2021 11:38 AM CDT
First Evacuated Afghans Arrive in US
In this Dec. 11, 2009, file photo, members of the US military interview a local Afghan man with the help of a translator in the volatile Helmand province of southern Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)

(Newser) – The Biden administration promised to help thousands of translators in Afghanistan flee their homeland ahead of the US troop withdrawal there next month. That promise is now coming to fruition, as the first 200 or so Afghans, mostly interpreters and their families, were evacuated and transported to Dulles International Airport, outside of DC, early Friday, NBC News reports. Per internal paperwork seen by the AP, there were 221 Afghans on the flight, including nearly 75 babies and kids, Al Jazeera reports. Officials say after their arrival, the Afghans—who came over to the States on a special immigrant visa specifically for those who'd assisted American troops—were to be taken a few hours away to Virginia's Fort Lee military base, where they'll remain for about a week while receiving medical checkups. An NSC adviser said all had undergone deep background checks.

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The Biden administration says the evacuees were tested for COVID before coming to the US, as well as offered the coronavirus vaccine before leaving Kabul, per the Los Angeles Times. The administration has plans to evacuate about 2,500 Afghans in total to the US directly, with another 4,000 brought to other nations or to US military bases abroad. Still, about 20,000 Afghans have applied for the special visas, and the ones left behind in Afghanistan could now be in great peril, with "Taliban forces gaining ground by the day," per NBC. In a statement, President Biden called the arrival of the current group an "important milestone" and "just the first of many" he expects to bring over to the US. "I want to thank these brave Afghans for standing with the United States, and today, I am proud to say to them: Welcome home." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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