Today is an important milestone as we continue to fulfill our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan. This morning, the first flight of Operation Allies Refuge has arrived in the United States, carrying Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) and their families. These arrivals are just the first of many as we work quickly to relocate SIV-eligible Afghans out of harm’s way—to the United States, to U.S. facilities abroad, or to third countries—so that they can wait in safety while they finish their visa applications.
These first Afghans are able to come directly to the United States because they have already completed extensive background checks and security screening by the Intelligence Community and the Departments of State and Homeland Security. They will complete the final steps of their visa applications and required medical checks at Fort Lee, in Virginia, before traveling onward to begin their new lives in the United States.
I want to honor all those in the United States who have spoken out on behalf of these brave Afghans, including the proud community of veterans, who have consistently advocated for the Afghans who were by their side in the field in Afghanistan, often serving as translators and interpreters. And I want to thank the diplomats and public servants across our government and around the world who are working tirelessly as part of Operation Allies Refuge.
Although U.S. troops are leaving, we will continue to support Afghanistan through security assistance to Afghan forces, as well as humanitarian and development aid to the Afghan people to help them sustain their achievements of the past 20 years. We will also continue our diplomatic support for the peace process. We call for an immediate reduction in violence in Afghanistan, and for all regional actors to encourage the parties to return to negotiations without delay so that the Afghan people can achieve a durable and just political settlement that brings the peace and security they deserve.
Most of all, I want to thank these brave Afghans for standing with the United States, and today, I am proud to say to them: “Welcome home.”