U.S. offers refuge to more Afghans who aided U.S.

The U.S. State Department on Monday announced a new refugee program for thousands of Afghan allies who may be targets of Taliban violence for their ties to America.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced plans to set up the "Priority Two" refugee program, covering Afghans who worked for U.S.-funded projects and for U.S.-based non-government bodies and media outlets…

Though he acknowledged the new program didn't cover everyone who helped.

“We know that there are Afghans who don't qualify but who helped us and deserve our help.”

The program comes as fighting surges in Afghanistan ahead of the formal completion of the U.S. troop withdrawal at the end of this month, with the Taliban pushing to capture key provincial capitals.

“We've seen the reports of atrocities being committed by the Taliban in various places where they are on the offensive. And these reports are deeply disturbing and totally unacceptable.”

U.S. President Joe Biden has faced pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups to help Afghans at risk of Taliban retaliation because of their association with the United States during the war.

The “Priority Two” program applies to Afghans who do not qualify for the Special Immigration Visa that covers interpreters and others who worked for the U.S. government and their families.

Last week.. about 200 applicants for those visas and their family members flew into the U.S. at the start of an evacuation effort dubbed "Operation Allies Refuge" that could include as many as 50,000 people or more.

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