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Biden says Afghanistan interpreters welcome in US

While discussing the end of U.S. Military operations in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said Thursday that Afghan translators will be welcome in the U.S. 

The comments came during a press conference in the East Room of the White House, where Biden pledged to bring home American troops by Aug. 31 – capping off nearly 20 years of U.S. military activity in Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden speaks about the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Washington. 
(AP)

Asked by a reporter why Afghan translators can’t be evacuated to the U.S. to await their visa processing – like some immigrants at the U.S. southern border – Biden said: “Because the law doesn’t allow that to happen.” 

“And that’s why we’re asking Congress to consider changing the law. But in the meantime, we can guarantee their safety if they wish to leave by taking them to third countries,” Biden said. 

He expressed his hope that they will eventually be able to come to the U.S. “if that’s what they choose to do.” 

Lawmakers and veterans alike have been pressuring Biden to offer further details on how he intends to help thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. military as translators, drivers and in other jobs who now fear they will be targeted by the Taliban after U.S. troops leave. 

BIDEN CHANGES END OF US COMBAT MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN FROM SEPT. 11 TO AUG. 31

Earlier this week, Iowan and Afghanistan interpreter Zalmay Niazy, who faces deportation due to an interaction he had with the Taliban as a child, said on Tuesday that being forced to leave the United States would be a “death sentence.” 

The White House says the administration has identified U.S. facilities outside of the continental United States, as well as third countries, where evacuated Afghans would potentially stay while their visa applications are processed. Biden said that 2,500 Afghans have been granted special immigrant visas since he took office in January.

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“Our message to those women and men is clear,” Biden said. “There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose. We will stand with you, just as you stood with us.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.