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US speeds up visas for vulnerable Afghans

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(Last Updated On: June 16, 2021)

As the U.S. military completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, the Biden administration says it is adding staff to hurry up the visa process for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government and want to flee to avoid Taliban reprisals, Reuters reported.

Afghans who worked for the United States during America’s longest war fear the insurgency will target them and their families, retribution for helping foreign forces, Reuters reported.

With the final pullout expected as early as mid-July, there appears to be a mismatch between the expectations of refugee advocates and what the Biden administration says is realistic given the legal and practical requirements to process special immigrant visas.

The administration says it has already doubled the number of staff processing cases in Kabul and tripled personnel reviewing petitions at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

It also plans a five-fold increase in the number of staff in the State Department working on the visas in Washington, a senior administration official told Reuters.

“All of these changes have resulted in, over the last couple of months, the largest number of cases processed in the history of the program in any 60-day period,” the official said, speaking about the plans on condition of anonymity.

The plan is to process at least 1,000-1,400 visa applications for Afghans who worked for the United States, not including their families, every month. By contrast, the U.S. government says, it issued only 237 such visas in the last three months of 2020.

But even with the new effort, the administration says there’s a limit to how fast a 14-step, multiple-agency process can move without changes to legislation. If all goes well, a visa could be processed in nine to 12 months, Reuters reported.

The administration supports legislation in Congress that would allow Afghans to do a medical check upon arriving in the United States, instead of in Afghanistan. It is also supports legislation eliminating the requirement for a specific petition at the Department of Homeland Security.

“That would be another two months that we could shave off,” the first official said.

But as the clock ticks down, Afghans who have applied for visas are becoming increasingly concerned.

Senator Patrick Leahy, recalling the chaos in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975 when he was a junior senator, said the matter was urgent.

“They’re going to have a target on their back,” Leahy said.

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US understands importance of Chabahar Port for Afghanistan: India

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2024)

The United States understands the importance of Chabahar Port for continued humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan and to provide the country economic alternatives, India’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

 India recently signed a 10-year agreement to develop and operate Iran’s strategic Chabahar Port as New Delhi aims to boost trade ties with landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, bypassing ports in its western neighbour and arch foe Pakistan.

But the deal has prompted a thinly veiled threat of sanctions from the United States, with whom India has developed close economic and military ties in recent decades.

India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Randhir Jaiswal, noted that since 2018, India has supplied 85,000 metric tons of wheat, 200 metric tons of pulses and 40,000 litres of pesticide Malathion to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port.

“The United States also has an understanding…understands the importance of Chabahar Port for continued humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan and to provide Afghanistan economic alternatives,” he said in a press conference.

“Our External Affairs Minister also spoke on this matter in several forums recently, where he said that we should not take a narrow view of this particular project, it has an important role to play as far as the region is concerned, connectivity is concerned, particularly for the landlocked countries in the area,” he added.

He also said that Russia‘s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, met with an Indian delegation led by Joint Secretary, J.P. Singh, who looks after Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, in the Ministry of External Affairs, essentially exchange of views on the ground and the situation and how the two countries look at the situation.

He said that they emphasized on the need to provide development assistance and humanitarian support to the people of Afghanistan.

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Nicaragua president sends letter of condolence to IEA leader after floods

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2024)

The Afghan Embassy in China announced Saturday that the President of Nicaragua has sent a letter of condolence to the leader of the Islamic Emirate, Mawlawi Hebatullah Akhundzada, following the recent deadly floods in Afghanistan.

Based on the embassy’s statement, the letter was handed over by Michael Campbell, the Nicaraguan ambassador to China, to Bilal Karimi, the Afghan ambassador to China.

In the letter, Nicaragua president, Daniel Ortega, while expressing his sympathy over the floods, expressed his interest in establishing good relations with the Islamic Emirate and cooperation in various fields.

The Nicaraguan ambassador stated that the Nicaraguan people, like the Afghans, achieved independence after a hard struggle against the colonialists, which is a common point between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Bilal Karimi, Afghanistan’s ambassador to China, has said that he will convey the condolence letter of the President of Nicaragua to the leader of the Islamic Emirate. He also assured of maintaining good relations with the country.

Karimi emphasized that all Latin American countries are important, but Nicaragua’s taking the initiative is a positive and admirable move.

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UN Doha meeting should reflect realities of Afghanistan: Iranian envoy

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2024)

Iran’s special representative for Afghanistan, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said in a meeting with his Italian counterpart that the next UN-convened meeting on Afghanistan should reflect the realities of the country.

Qomi said that Tehran is ready to work with Europe on the development of a comprehensive cooperation plan for Afghanistan based on the consultations it has conducted.

He added that the topics of the third meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan in Doha should be based on the realities of the region and Afghanistan.

“The actions of countries outside the region have not been useful in solving the crisis and challenges of Afghanistan so far, and if this situation continues, Europe will also be plagued by the problems,” he said.

The last meeting of the United Nations on Afghanistan was held in Doha in February this year, but it failed to achieve its primary objectives.

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