Biden directs evacuation flights for Afghan interpreters to begin late July



President Joe Biden has directed evacuation flights for Afghan interpreters and other nationals who helped the U.S. military during the 20-year conflict beginning in late July, according to a senior administration official.

Those Afghans and their families will wait in at least one third country while the State Department finishes processing special immigrant visas that will allow them to enter the United States, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.

The news comes less than a week after Biden announced that the United States would begin relocation flights for the thousands of Afghans this month, as the U.S. military approaches the end of the Afghanistan drawdown. U.S. Central Command said this week that the withdrawal is 95 percent complete.

In a sign that one of the third countries might be located in Central Asia, Ambassador Tracey Jacobson, a three-time chief of mission in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kosovo, is leading the State Department unit responsible for the effort, dubbed “Operation Allies Refuge.”

The group also includes representatives from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Russ Travers, the deputy homeland security adviser and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, is coordinating the effort across agencies.

Emily Cadei contributed to this report.

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