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Monday, January 24, 2022

Qatar’s Al-Udeid base to house Afghan interpreters following US troop withdrawal


Afghan authorities on Saturday announced a night curfew in 31 of the country’s provinces amid a surge in violence.

The Pentagon is set to transfer thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators along with their families to military bases in the US and Qatar, as the troop withdrawal continues.

According to the Wall Street Journal [WSJ], up to 2,500 Afghans, including 700 interpreters and family members, will be temporarily moved to fort Lee, Virginia as they await the processing for their US visas.

Qatar will also be hosting Afghans who worked for the US and their families at the biggest American outpost in the Middle East – Al-Udeid Air Base – with the possibility of building more houses. The number of interpreters ranges between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

“These are brave Afghans and their families, as we have said, who have served the United States and who have completed thorough SIV security vetting processes,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said the move highlights the US’ commitment to those who assisted troops in Afghanistan.

“It goes back to our sincere responsibility that we feel to take care of these people who have taken care of us,” Kirby said on Monday.

Taliban says ‘strenuously favours’ political solution as sweeping offensives continue

According to the WSJ, President Joe Biden said the first group of interpreters are expected to be evacuated from the country by the end of July, without revealing further details on the plan.

Moving the interpreters while Special Immigrant Visas are being processed would provide them with the ability to apply for asylum in case they get rejected.

Concerns over the fate of interpreters has emerged since Biden’s announcement to completely withdraw US troops by 11 September this year. Since then, the Taliban has targeted them as well as other Afghans in the country.

On Friday, the US condemned the Taliban’s ongoing attacks, calling on the insurgent group to stop their violence in the country.

“We vehemently condemn the targeted attacks, the destruction of vital infrastructure, as well as other attacks against the people of Afghanistan,” State Department Spokeswoman Jalina Porter said at a regular news briefing.

On Saturday, Afghanistan’s ministry of interior announced the start of a night curfew across most of the country as the Taliban continues to carry out its offensives.

“To curb violence and limit the Taliban movements, a night curfew has been imposed in 31 provinces across the country,” except in Kabul, Panjshir and Nangarhar, the interior ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Last week, the Afghan government and the Taliban held senior-level meetings in Qatar, where the insurgent group said it “strenuously favours” a political solution to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where the two diplomats discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan.

During the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed reiterated the importance of reaching a political resolution in Afghanistan through a comprehensive meeting that includes all Afghan leaders.

Initial talks in Qatar kicked off in September last year, when the Afghan government and the Taliban came face to face in order to reach a political settlement following decades of conflict between the two parties.

However, with US and foreign troops now withdrawing from the war-torn country, the Taliban has capitalised on the moment to make major territorial gains.

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan [UNAMA], up to 7,792 children were killed and 18,662 injured in the past decade alone, in addition to more than 3,000 deaths recorded among women, according to Al Jazeera.

The UN’s refugee agency also warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of yet another humanitarian crisis, noting 270,000 Afghans are estimated to have been newly internally displaced since January – raising the total number of Afghans forced from their homes to more than 3.5 million.

Furthermore, civilian casualties had increased by 29% during the first quarter of this year compared with 2020.

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