U.S. efforts to speed up visas for Afghan allies were too little, too late

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Data: The Refugee Processing Center; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

The number of Afghan allies being brought to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) had lagged until the collapse of Afghanistan forced the issue for the Biden administration, according to U.S. government data.

Why it matters: While the chaos around Kabul's airport is a general humanitarian disaster for regular Afghans, it's a special concern for those who helped the U.S. government and military during the past 20 years. When Kabul unexpectedly fell, efforts to speed up the 14-step SIV process were too little, too late.

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  • The helpers now fear retaliation from the Taliban.

  • A national security contact in touch with Axios' Glen Johnson relayed a text from an SIV applicant hiding in the city: "People have come to our home asking about me and my mother. ... They told [my sister] to better find me and my Mom next time they visit."

By the numbers: More than 8,000 Afghans arrived during a five-month period from the end of 2019 to the beginning of 2020. But then for over a year, only a couple hundred SIV applicants managed to make it to the U.S. each month, according to the data.

  • It took until July for the Biden administration to again bring in more than 1,000 Afghans during a single month.

  • Even when President Trump began announcing his intention to withdraw troops toward the end of 2020, far fewer Afghan SIV holders were arriving than in earlier years.

  • Coronavirus protocols shuttered embassies around the world and entirely suspended critical in-person SIV interviews in Kabul for almost a year, as Axios has reported.

Be smart: Lawmakers, veterans and even members of the State Department complained throughout this year that President Biden was too slow in accelerating the process before the collapse of the government made the problem eminently clear. (Subscription required.)

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