Approximately 2,500 Afghans and their families who helped the U.S. military are headed to Fort Lee, Virginia, to complete their special immigrant visa application process, according to an NSC notification viewed by CBS News and confirmed by a senior Congressional source.
The memo, sent from the State Department to Congress, says the first round of the SIV applicants will be temporarily housed at Fort Lee while they finish the vetting process. There, they'll undergo medical screening and the "final administrative requirements," the document states.
The 2,500 Afghans who will be admitted include 700 applicants and their family members.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday the Defense Department is considering other domestic locations in addition to Fort Lee and overseas locations are also under consideration for the applicants who have not gotten as far in the security vetting as the initial tranche headed to the U.S.
Kirby said the applicants and their families in the initial tranche are the furthest along in the process, and are only expected to stay a few days at Fort Lee or another installation to complete the application process. He did not say when flights would start for the 2,500.
The Biden administration announced "Operation Allies Refuge" this past Thursday to support Afghans who helped the U.S. during the 20-year war and now face threats from the Taliban.
President Biden this month said the withdrawal will be complete by August 31, earlier than the initial September 11 deadline. U.S. Central Command says that effort is already 95% complete.
With the Taliban gaining ground in recent weeks, there is mounting pressure from lawmakers and human rights groups to evacuate Afghans who aided the U.S. military, as well as any immediate family members who might be at risk. According to the nonprofit No One Left Behind, over 300 interpreters and their relatives have been killed because of their association with the U.S.
"Our message to those women and men is clear: There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us," President Biden said earlier this month.
The most recent report from the State Department on the progress of SIV application shows there are still 16,000 applications in process -- and that number doesn't include applicants' family members who are also eligible. By some estimates, 70,000 Afghans who either worked with or have a family member who worked with Americans could now be in danger.
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