Biden to Announce 'Operation Allied Refuge' to Airlift All Eligible Afghans

President Joe Biden is set to soon unveil a massive airlift of Afghan interpreters and other personnel who served the ending U.S. military mission in the war-torn country, two individuals familiar with the operation told Newsweek.

The undertaking has been named "Operation Allied Refuge" and will be spearheaded by the U.S. Air Force, which is tasked with getting tens of thousands of prospective Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants out of Afghanistan amid fears of reprisal as the U.S. military withdraws.

Naveed Shah, government affairs associate for Common Defense, attended a Zoom meeting earlier Wednesday where a senior White House official confirmed that the operation would begin later this month.

"This is going to SIV eligible applicants — even if they are not in the pipeline," Shah told Newsweek. "It is far broader than the original 18K, and will include Afghans all stages of the application process and even those eligible for an application."

This first set of flights starting the last week of July are for the 2,500 Afghans who have already received Chief of Mission approval for their SIVs.

Shah commended the Biden administration for heeding the calls of advocate groups such as his for expediting the process of getting qualified Afghan partners out of the country.

"This is exactly what we are looking for from the administration," Shah said. "We want to see a majority out of the country, and that we will see them eventually in the U.S."

The destination for these Afghan nationals has yet to be officially announced. A senior Defense Department official with direct knowledge of the operation said two countries likely to be involved were in the Middle East, though it was unclear if the governments of these nations had yet signed off.

"Air Force is the lead component," the official said, while the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps will "support" the operation.

Biden announced earlier this month that all U.S. forces would leave Afghanistan by August 31, ahead of the September 11 deadline he offered in April. The previous administration led by former President Donald Trump negotiated a peace deal with the Taliban last year for a U.S. exit originally planned for this May.

Most U.S. and allied NATO troops have already left Afghanistan, and transferred control of their largest aerial hub, Bagram Air Base, to local Afghan security forces aligned with the internationally recognized government in Kabul. But the departure of foreign personnel has been accompanied by rapid Taliban advances across the country, including along nearly all of Afghanistan's international borders with Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The U.S. has raised the alarm against growing violence in Afghanistan and has urged both the Afghan government and the Taliban to intensify reconciliation efforts in the interest of the country's stability.

"The ongoing peace process presents the best opportunity to reach a political settlement to end the war and build a united front against the menace of terrorism," a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek.

US, Air, Force, airlift, Qatar, Afghanistan
Senior Airman Celine Carson, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, guides a firetruck into a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, May 6 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. U.S. Air Force C-17s and other mobility aircraft around the U.S. Air Forces Central theater are assisting with the safe and orderly drawdown operations from Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Kylee Gardner/379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs /U.S. Air Force