Operation Allied Refuge: US President Joe Biden directed the launching of flights this month to relocate eligible Afghan nationals who were deployed on behalf of the US government and their families, a senior administration official circulated on social media on Tuesday.
“At President Biden’s direction, the United States is launching Operation Allied Refuge to support relocation flights for interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have supported the United States and our partners in Afghanistan and are in SIV [Special Immigrant Visas] application pipeline,” the official said.
“Flights out of Afghanistan for SIV applicants who are already in the pipeline will begin in the last week of July.”
The official also said the details about when flights will depart would not be disclosed for operational security reasons.
The State Department Coordination Unit, which will have representatives from the departments of Defense and of Homeland Security, will be leading the operation.
The Defense Department has said the US had withdrawn more than 95 percent of its military personnel and equipment from Afghanistan while Biden said the withdrawal would be finished by August 31.
The current spike in hostilities in neighboring Afghanistan does not pose a threat to Iran, army commander Maj. Gen. Seyyed Abdolrahim Mousavi said on Wednesday.
The Iranian military chief inspected troops stationed near the border after the Taliban (a terror group, banned in Russia) seized last week an Afghan crossing point together with the border town of Islam Qala.
“The armed forces of our country are in the best condition and have been preparing for various threats for years … the recent events in Afghanistan do not pose any threat to our country,” Mousavi said, as quoted by the Tasnim news agency.
Almost the entire border with Afghanistan is monitored by various electronic systems, sensors, cameras, and drones, which provide data based on which the Iranian military makes decisions on security, he explained.
Afghanistan has been engulfed in clashes between the government forces and the Taliban, who have stepped up offensive as the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country is nearing its end.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar held a meeting in Dushanbe with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov to discuss the Afghan peace process and bilateral cooperation, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
“The parties have stressed the importance of searching for solutions to peace process issues as well as expanding practical peace, security and economic assistance cooperation,” the ministry said.
According to its statement, the sides also discussed plans for the creation of a quadripartite format with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and the US as its members for developing economic relations between Central and South Asia.
Earlier this day, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization foreign ministers held a special meeting in the Tajik capital with Atmar within the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, discussing the current situation in the country.
Afghanistan is seeing a spike in violence from the Taliban (a terror group, banned in Russia) as international troops are gradually being withdrawn from the country. The troop pullout was one of the points of agreement the Taliban and the United States reached in Doha in February of last year. In early July, the Pentagon said that the US has withdrawn over 95% of American military personnel and equipment from Afghanistan.
In late June, dozens of Afghan soldiers fled to Uzbekistan, escaping from the Taliban. However, the Uzbek authorities returned them to Afghanistan, refusing to accept.
UK Reay To Work With Taliban
UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace said on Wednesday that the British government will work with the Taliban (a terror group, banned in Russia) should they share power in Afghanistan and abide by international rules.
“Whatever the government of the day is, provided it adheres to certain international norms, the UK Government will engage with it,” Wallace was quoted as saying in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
The confrontation between Afghan government forces and Taliban militants has been on the rise since troops from the US-led NATO coalition began to withdraw. The Taliban intensified advances in the country’s northern parts, in particular, and succeeded in seizing large rural areas.
Last week, the radical movement claimed to have established control over nearly half of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts, a statement refuted by Kabul.
According to the news outlet, Wallace admitted that the prospect of the UK working with a group responsible for the deaths of 457 UK military would be controversial, but claimed that all peace processes require coming to terms with the enemy.
He also appealed for both the Taliban and the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani to show leadership and bring the country together after decades of armed conflict.
“You have to be a partner for peace otherwise you risk isolation. Isolation led them (the Taliban) to where they were last time,” Wallace stressed, arguing that what they desperately want is international recognition.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that the majority of the UK troops and military personnel have already withdrawn from Afghanistan, but pledged to continue supporting Kabul.