Biden authorizes up to $100M for Afghan refugees
President Biden has authorized up to $100 million in additional aid for Afghan refugees and those impacted by ongoing violence between the Taliban and Afghan forces as the U.S. nears completion of its goal to remove all its troops from the country.
Biden announced the foreign aid in a memo from the White House Friday, citing a need for “meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas.”
“Such assistance may be provided on a bilateral or multilateral basis as appropriate, including through contributions to international organizations and through funding to other nongovernmental organizations, governments, and United States departments and agencies,” he added in the memo.
The move comes as officials are warning of a worsening security situation in Afghanistan as the U.S. appears likely to have all remaining troops gone by Aug. 31, ahead of Biden’s initial deadline of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that sparked America’s longest war.
Thousands of Afghan military members and civilians have fled into neighboring countries as the Taliban have made continued territorial gains, with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley telling reporters Wednesday that the Taliban have gained control over half of Afghanistan’s district centers.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration formally launched “Operation Allies Refuge” to evacuate Afghans who assisted U.S. troops during the 20-year war there, starting with Afghans who were already in the process of applying for special immigrant visas (SIVs).
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday that up to 2,500 Afghans in the “very final stages” of applying for SIVs will be sent to the U.S. military base in Fort Lee, Va., while they wait for “final medical screenings and final administrative requirements.”
The U.S. military carried out two strikes against the Taliban on Thursday night as the group is sweeping through Afghanistan, though Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said there will not be peace in the country until Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a new negotiated government is put in place.
Experts and lawmakers alike have expressed concerns that the Taliban could quickly take over Afghanistan following a speedy U.S. withdrawal, with a U.S. intelligence community assessment last month saying that Afghanistan’s government could collapse as quickly as six months after the U.S. troop removal.
However, Biden himself has pushed back on this assertion, and Milley on Wednesday expressed confidence in the Afghan military’s ability to defend itself.
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