Amid a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, in which many U.S. personnel and allies wait to be airlifted by U.S. forces, President Joe Biden has authorized an extra $500 million for relocating Afghan refugees, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).
A memorandum put out on Monday by the White House states that the funds were deemed necessary to meet the “unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday, “The safety and security of U.S. Government employees and U.S. citizens overseas is our top priority. All remaining U.S. direct-hire embassy personnel, including the ambassador, have relocated to Hamid Karzai International Airport, where they are secure.”
Price also said that the Department of Defense (DoD) is taking steps to secure the areas around the airport, so military and commercial flights can restart.
U.S. military flights evacuating diplomats, Americans, and others out of Kabul restarted on Tuesday after the airport runway was cleared.
“Runway in Kabul international airport is open. I see airplanes landing and taking off,” Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s civilian representative, wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
Less than a day earlier, Biden said he is authorizing the deployment of troops for a targeted mission.
“Let me lay out the current mission in Afghanistan: I was asked to authorize, and I did, 6,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of the U.S. and allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan,” said Biden.
The Pentagon has said The U.S. military will fly up to 30,000 people out of Kabul, including embassy personnel, U.S. citizens, Afghan SIV applicants, and other at-risk individuals.
Of that total, 8,000 will be transported to a third country for visa processing, with the other 22,000 heading to the United States.
Advocates estimate 50,000 to 80,000 SIV applicants and family members require evacuation, of which the Biden administration thus far has evacuated a fraction.
Biden told the Americans in an address Monday that he stands by his decision to withdraw troops and end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. He went on to say he had to decide between asking U.S. forces to fight endlessly or follow through on a withdrawal agreement. The president was harshly criticized by Republicans and members of his own party, who said he botched the withdrawal and delivered the United States a humiliating defeat comparable to the 1975 fall of Saigon that ended the Vietnam War.
Garry Reid, the lead for the DoD Crisis Action Group for Afghanistan in charge of the relocating process, told reporters that his team is preparing for arrivals at military bases in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Texas, but other sites may be added as the need arises.
Isabel van Brugen and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.