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U.S. expands Afghan refugee program as Taliban violence escalates

The State Department announced Monday it is expanding grants of eligibility for refugee status in the U.S. for at-risk Afghans, citing an increase in violence by the Taliban ahead of the U.S. military's total withdrawal.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has faced pressure to do more to help Afghans who assisted the U.S. military over the course of the two-decade war. The expansion will allow thousands more Afghans and their family members to apply for permanent refugee resettlement, according to the State Department.

Details: The program covers Afghans who worked with the U.S. as locally-employed staff, including interpreters who didn't qualify for a special immigrant visa because they didn't work directly for the government or didn't hold government jobs long enough.

  • The program will also be expanded to current and former employees of U.S.-based news organizations, people who worked for U.S. government-funded programs or on projects supported by U.S. grants or cooperative agreements, and people who worked for American-based aid groups.
  • It covers current and former staff of the U.S. and NATO operations who previously didn't qualify.
  • Afghans have to be nominated by a U.S. agency or by the most senior U.S. citizen employee at a U.S.-based media outlet or nongovernmental organization.

State of play: The first plane with more than 200 Afghans who served as interpreters, contractors or other ally roles for the U.S. military arrived in Virginia last week. More than 700 Afghan allies and their families are preparing to be brought into the U.S. in the coming days on special immigrant visas.

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