Is the US abandoning its Afghan workers? | The Stream

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The video item below is a piece of English language content from Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera is a Qatari state-funded broadcaster based in Doha, Qatar, owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network.

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  • Al Jazeera English published this video item, entitled “Is the US abandoning its Afghan workers? | The Stream” – below is their description.

    US President Joe Biden has a month to decide whether he will stick to a February 2020 agreement with the Taliban that commits the US to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. But as the May 1 withdrawal deadline nears, Afghans awaiting Special Immigrant Visas after working for the US government are fearful that a US exit will leave them defenceless against reprisals by the Taliban and its supporters.

    Thousands of Afghans have worked for the US government in the years since US forces invaded and began occupying Afghanistan in 2001, holding jobs as interpreters, drivers, security guards, and embassy clerks. But while more than 15,000 Special Immigrant Visas have been issued to Afghan applicants, thousands more Afghan visa petitioners are facing protracted delays in processing and vetting.

    Each day spent waiting for an application to inch through the US immigration system is another day where workers and their families are exposed to attack. Hundreds of Afghans who have worked for the US government or international coalition forces have been killed, many while waiting for visas that would have secured their safety.

    The situation for US-affiliated workers in Iraq is also dire. While the temporary Afghan SIV programme remains open for applicants, a similar SIV programme for Iraq has not been re-authorised since 2014. Thousands of Iraqis have instead had no choice but to lodge applications through the Direct Access Program, within the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

    Biden in February issued an Executive Order in which he instructed a review and report on the Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa programmes within 180 days. But advocates for visa applicants are alarmed that US government action will be too late for US-affiliated Afghans who may face violence in the event of a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some are calling for Afghan applicants to be evacuated to safe havens.

    In this episode of The Stream we’ll meet US advocates helping Afghans and Iraqis caught in limbo.

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    In This Story: Afghanistan

    Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast.

    Occupying 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi), it is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest. Kabul is the capital and largest city. The population is around 32 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.

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    Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia. The capital and largest city is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabakis, Armenians, Mandaeans, Circassians, Sabians and Kawliya. Around 99% of the country’s 38 million citizens are Muslims, with small minorities of Christians, Yarsans, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

    Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation.

    Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates, four of which make up the autonomous Kurdistan Region. Disputes over the sovereignty of Kurdistan Region continue.

    Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF.

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