Good afternoon. Welcome to the American Embassy.
I am pleased to report that the first flight of Operation Allies Refuge that departed Kabul yesterday landed in the United States nearly three hours ago.
Our Afghan partners and their families on that flight will arrive this morning, East Coast time, at Fort Lee, Virginia.
This White House initiative aims to ensure the safe relocation of Afghans who have worked for the United States over the past two decades.
Many public servants at the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, plus people from across the U.S. Mission in Kabul, are making Operation Allies Refuge possible.
I want particularly to note the critical contribution made by our Consul General, Ben Ousley-Naseman, and his outstanding team.
While the relocation aspect of Operation Allies Refuge is new, this is not a new immigration program.
All these travelers qualified under existing legislation for S-I-Vs and were fully vetted and interviewed by consular officers here.
The 2009 Afghan Allies Protection Act makes clear our country’s commitment to those who have served alongside us at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
Under its terms, Afghan nationals who have worked for or on behalf of the United States government and who are facing ongoing threats because of their service to our country, can seek to immigrate to the U-S.
In legislation passed yesterday, Congress reaffirmed that commitment – for which we and our Afghan friends are grateful.
For months, we and our colleagues in Washington have worked to speed up everything about the SIV process.
Since the first of the year, our consular staff in Kabul has issued over 5000 Special Immigrant Visas and interviewed thousands – some of whom departed yesterday.
We are proud of that and of yesterday’s success. Much more work lies ahead to meet America’s commitment to those who have been committed to us.
This effort in support of Afghans who have risked their lives in service to the United States is a critical part of what we do here.
A second element is ongoing and robust security cooperation and assistance, economic and humanitarian aid, and other, wide-ranging programs that our U.S. mission carries out.
A third is our continued work toward bringing about a pol settlement and an end to the violence that has plagued this country for over 40 years.
These pieces complement one another – U-S commitment to Afghans who served us, strong support for the success of this country’s security forces and other institutions, and our insistence on peace and preserving the gains this country has made over the last twenty years.