White House Announces Operation To Evacuate Afghan Refugees

July 14, 2021James R. Webb
allies refuge operation

In 2016, after more than six years, Robert Ham finally welcomed his friend and former interpreter Saifullah Haqmal to San Antonio, Texas. Ham worked with congressional representatives and the State Department to bring the Haqmal family to the United States. Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Robert Ham via DVIDS.

The Biden administration is launching “Operation Allies Refuge” to eliminate the Special Immigrant Visa backlog and evacuate Afghan nationals who have aided the US military. 

“At President Biden’s direction, the United States is launching Operation Allies 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 the [Special Immigrant Visa] application pipeline,” a senior administration official said in a statement to Fox News.

Details regarding the evacuation remain vague, including when it will begin and where the Afghan nationals will go. According to Fox News, a White House official cited “security purposes” as the reason for withholding details about the operation. However, there are indications that evacuation flights will begin at the end of July.

allies refuge operation
Matthew Zeller, left, in Afghanistan with his interpreter, Janis Shinwari, third from right, who later came to the US with Zeller’s help. Zeller has worked for years to bring interpreters and other Afghans to America. Photo courtesy of Matthew Zeller.

The Special Immigrant Visa process takes more than 800 days, on average. There are currently some 18,000 Afghans whose applications are stuck in a State Department backlog. The Association of Wartime Allies estimated the actual number of applicants looking for visas is around 71,000 when applicants’ family members are accounted for. 

Matt Zeller, a member of the Association of Wartime Allies, told Coffee or Die Magazine that, without emergency action taken by either the executive or legislative branch of government, that number would take “an additional three years” to work through — even if staff worked on the task “24/7, full-time.” 

While administration officials have yet to say where Afghan refugees will land, many experts say Guam is the most likely spot. In a June 12, 2021, letter to Biden, Guam’s governor, Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero, asked that the island be a landing point for refugees, much like after the Vietnam War.

allies refuge operation
An Afghan National Army soldier talks to coalition forces through an interpreter in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, May 29, 2012. US Army photo by Spc. Andrew Baker.

“Guam has stood ready to serve as a safe and secure route for this type of humanitarian effort throughout our history. And today, it is no different,” Guerrero wrote. “Due to the urgency and gravity of this matter, I would like to speak with you soon.”

Additionally, the Association for Wartime Allies has worked out the cost of flying some 70,000 refugees to Guam. Zeller estimates that number would be roughly $9,981.65 per person, for a total cost of about $699 million.

“It sounds like a lot of money until you realize it’s an additional 8.3 hours of the DOD budget,” Zeller said. “But it’s a hell of a down payment in keeping Americans alive in future wars. Because this is how we’re going to show people that we keep our word.”

Read Next: ‘Human-Rights Catastrophe in the Making’ — Without Presidential Action, Afghan Allies Could Be Doomed

James R. Webb
James R. Webb

James Webb served as a US Marine infantryman from 2005 to 2010, completing a combat tour in Iraq. He’s worked as a freelance writer and photojournalist covering US troops in Afghanistan, and Webb spent more than two years in the US Senate as a military legislative assistant and as the personal representative of a member on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
navy seal training
Navy SEALS Training Plagued by Massive Problems, According To Investigation

Medical oversight and care were “poorly organized, poorly integrated and poorly led and put candidat...

memorial day arlington
Memorial Day Is a Day of Remembrance, Not Celebration

Memorial Day was created as a remembrance to honor the fallen by decorating graves — a holiday meant...

air force joint chiefs
Air Force Fighter Pilot Tapped As Next Joint Chiefs Chairman Has History of Firsts

The Air Force fighter pilot about to be nominated as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ...

sowf special operations warrior foundation
BRCC Donates $500K to Special Operations Warrior Foundation

In an effort to continue Black Rifle Coffee Company’s mission of supporting the veteran community, B...

Coca Cola 600
BRCC to Honor Fallen Marine During NASCAR’s Legendary Coca-Cola 600

Black Rifle Coffee Company will honor Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa during NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 this Memorial Day. Menusa was killed in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq.

uss gerald r. ford oslo
US Aircraft Carrier Arrives In NATO Member Norway, To Take Part In Drills

The nuclear-powered ship USS Gerald R. Ford entered the Oslo fjord escorted by a rapid dinghy-type boat with armed personnel on board.

adam driver indy 500
Marine Vet, Actor Adam Driver Named Honorary Starter for Indianapolis 500

Two-time Academy Award nominee Adam Driver, who will soon be starring as Enzo Ferrari in a biopic of...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved