US 'committed' to relocating Afghan translators: Blinken
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that Washington was "committed to helping" and "actively engaged" in planning for the relocation of Afghan interpreters and translators who worked for US forces.
In what the White House has dubbed Operation Allies Refuge, the interpreters and their families are likely to be taken first to US overseas military bases before resettlement in the United States or elsewhere.
Washington is still seeking third countries to host some of those evacuated while their cases, including detailed security checks, are finalised.
There had been speculation that some could be housed at US facilities in Kuwait but there was no such announcement during Blinken's lightning trip to the Gulf state.
"(The) US is committed to helping those who helped us during hard times in Afghanistan over the last 20 years -- translators and interpreters," Blinken said during a press conference with his Kuwaiti counterpart.
"We're actively engaged in that process (of) relocation planning."
The US hopes to welcome the first group of Afghans granted asylum under a scheme to protect those who worked alongside coalition forces "very, very soon", Blinken said.
Around 20,000 Afghans who worked as interpreters for the United States during its war in the country have applied for evacuation under the State Department program of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).
Some estimates suggest the total number of prospective evacuees could be as high as 100,000 when family members are counted.
Many of them fear retaliation by the Taliban, who are seeking to regain control of the government in Kabul after the departure of US troops before the end of August.
The Taliban have pressed a sweeping offensive across Afghanistan in recent months, capitalising on the last stages of the US troop withdrawal, due to be completed by the end of August.
Their offensive has raised fears of a potential humanitarian crisis.
The insurgents have publicly stated that interpreters who worked with coalition forces have nothing to fear as the US and its allies complete their withdrawal.
But some of those who worked alongside the foreign forces have questioned the Taliban's sincerity.
The United Nations recently estimated half of Afghanistan's 39 million people are in need of aid, and called on the international community to maintain financial support for the country.