“These are brave Afghans and their families, as we have said, whose service the United States has been certified by the Embassy in Kabul and who have completed thorough [special immigrant visa] security vetting processes,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a Monday briefing. “They will be provided temporary housing and services as they complete the final steps in the Special Immigrant process.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has faced bipartisan pressure to provide visas for interpreters and other local employees, as lawmakers predict a massacre of these individuals and their families after the withdrawal of American troops. The evacuation flights are scheduled to begin later this month and deliver the immigrants to Fort Lee, Virginia — an announcement that coincided with a plea for “an urgent end to the Taliban’s ongoing military offensive” in favor of peace talks with the central government in Kabul.
“The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict and to the Doha peace process,” the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a joint statement with 16 other diplomatic missions. “We join the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in calling on the Taliban and all parties to immediately end the violence, agree to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, and engage fully in peace negotiations to end the suffering of the Afghan people and pave the way to an inclusive political settlement that benefits all Afghans and ensures that Afghanistan does not again serve as a safe haven for terrorists.”
Taliban forces have spread across Afghanistan in recent months, as Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from the country shifted the balance of power between the militants and the Afghan security forces.
“The last opportunities remain for a political settlement and an enduring peace in Afghanistan,” said High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah Monday, per local media. “Insisting on a military option shows that necessary lessons have not been learned from more than four decades of conflict.”
Abdullah’s team met with the Taliban in Qatar, but the militant group is reportedly demanding that Kabul release 7,000 prisoners in exchange for a ceasefire. Taliban officials insisted they seek a peace deal, despite their ascendance on the battlefield.
"In spite of the military gains and advances, the Islamic Emirate strenuously favors a political settlement in the country, and every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system,” a Taliban statement declared.
Biden insists a Taliban victory is not “inevitable.” Still, the Afghan military was designed to be dependent on American support — particularly for the air force, which has been maintained by U.S. contractors.