The Biden administration said Wednesday that it is prepared to begin evacuation flights for Afghan interpreters and translators who aided the US military effort in the nearly 20-year war. The Operation Allies Refuge flights out of Afghanistan in the last week of July will be available first for special immigrant visa applicants already in the process of applying for US residency, according to the White House. Press secretary Jen Psaki declined to detail how many Afghans are expected to be evacuated in the first flights or where they will be taken, citing security concerns, the AP reports. "The reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals," Psaki said. "We want to make sure we recognize and value the role they've played over the last several years." The administration is considering using State Department-chartered commercial aircraft instead of military aircraft, an administration official said. The Pentagon said no decisions have been made about overseas locations the evacuees could be taken to temporarily.
Confirmation on the timeline came as President Biden was to meet Wednesday with Gen. Austin "Scott" Miller, who earlier this week stepped down as the top US commander in Afghanistan. Psaki said Biden wanted to personally thank Miller for conducting an "orderly and safe" drawdown of US troops. Biden has faced pressure from lawmakers in both parties to come up with a plan to evacuate Afghan military helpers before next month's US troop withdrawal. Former President George W. Bush, who launched the war, criticized the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan in an interview with a German broadcaster released Wednesday, saying he fears for Afghan women and girls as the Taliban regains control of much of the country. "It's unbelievable how that society changed from the brutality of the Taliban, and all of a sudden—sadly—I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm," Bush said.
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