By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will be completed by the end of August, the White House said on Friday.
US President Joe Biden in April set a Sept. 11, 2021 deadline for the process to be finalized, missing a key May deadline agreed upon with the Taliban under his predecessor, but ensuring the 20-year US war in Afghanistan would come to an end.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that ahead of the full exit Afghan nationals who have assisted the US in the war-torn country, including interpreters and translators, would be sent to a country outside of Afghanistan while their visa processes are completed.
"There are a range of options, and that will happen before we complete our military drawdown by the end of August," she said. Psaki did not specify where they would be sent, or how many people are part of the program, due to security reasons.
The State Department on Thursday said there are about 18,000 applicants for special immigrant visas in Afghanistan, nearly 9,000 of whom are already in the initial stages of the process while the remainder needed to act before the US could begin processing their cases.
The US on Friday handed over control of the key Bagram Airfield, the biggest US military installation in the country, to Afghan forces as expectations have mounted that the process could be completed within days.
Biden denied that is the case earlier Friday when questioned by reporters, but said the process is "on track exactly as to where we expected to be."