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Afghan Robotics Team First To Be Introduced At Opening Ceremony In Washington

Members of the Afghan robotics team prepare to leave Herat International Airport for the United States on July 13.

Six Afghan girls who were earlier denied visas to attend a Washington, D.C., robotics competition were the first to be introduced during opening ceremonies of the technology and science competition.

Waving the national flag, the girls on July 16 received a loud ovation from the crowd at the FIRST Global Challenge -- a three-day international robotics competition that aims to promote science and technology.

The teams were introduced alphabetically, allowing the Afghan team to enter first among the some 163 teams entered in the event that featured participants aged 15 to 18.

The entrants included Team Hope, which consists of refugees.

The Afghan girls are entering a robot they made that can recognize blue and orange and sort balls into correct locations.

The members were greeted on July 15 at Dulles International Airport by a group of supporters, including Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib and the acting special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Alice G. Wells.

The six girls from Herat were reportedly blocked from attending the robotics competition even after two rounds of interviews for a one-week visa.

At the urging of President Donald Trump, however, U.S. officials reversed policy and allowed the girls to enter the country for the competition.

Critics had argued that the denial of the visas was the wrong message to send to the people of Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces have been helping to fight Taliban extremists for 16 years.

Based on reporting by AP and Politco