Afghan special visa applicants to be housed at base in Virginia: Sources

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President Joe Biden’s administration is set to send the first batch of Afghan special immigration visa applicants to a military base in Virginia as they wait for the process to be completed, four sources told Reuters.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 2,500 Afghans were expected to be housed at Fort Lee, a US Army base about 30 miles (48 km) south of Richmond, Virginia.

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A formal announcement was set to be made on Monday, they added.

Biden has set a formal end to the US military mission in Afghanistan for Aug. 31 as he looks to disengage from a conflict that began after al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Last week, the administration announced that it would soon begin evacuating applicants for special immigration visas whose lives are at risk because of work they did with the US government as translators and in other roles.

The administration has been under pressure from lawmakers of both major political parties and advocacy groups to begin evacuating thousands of special immigration visa applicants - and their families - who risk retaliation because of their work with the US government.

That concern has grown with an increase in fighting between US-backed Afghan forces and the Taliban in recent weeks, with the militants gaining territory and capturing border crossings.

Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Afghanistan urged the Taliban on Monday to halt their military offensives just hours after the rival Afghan sides failed to agree on a ceasefire at a peace meeting in Doha.

The Special Immigrant Visa program is available to people who worked with the US government or the American-led military force during the Afghanistan war.

It is expected that the initial evacuation will be carried out by civilian chartered aircraft and will include Afghans who are waiting for their visa applications to be processed and their families.

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