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Britain To Speed Up Relocation For Afghan Interpreters

An interpreter holds a petition signed by over 70,000 people calling for asylum for Afghan interpreters who served the British Army in 2013.

Britain has announced plans to step up the relocation of Afghan staff who worked with the military and their families ahead of the completion of a planned withdrawal of U.S.-led NATO forces from the war-wracked country.

More than 1,400 Afghans, mostly interpreters and their relatives, have already moved to Britain under a resettlement scheme.

The government says about 3,000 more are expected to resettle there under new measures that broaden eligibility and facilitates the access to relocation for families of former Afghan staff.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said on May 31 that the government had a "moral obligation" to relocate staff and to "recognize the risks they faced in the fight against terrorism and reward their efforts."

"I'm pleased that we are meeting this fully, by providing them and their families the opportunity to build a new life in this country," she added.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said it was "only right" to speed up the relocation of those at risk of reprisals from the Taliban and other militants in the country.

"With Western powers leaving, the threat is increasing, including targeted attacks by the Taliban," Wallace said.

Local staff who served with British forces had "sacrificed a lot to look after us and now is the time to do the same," he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden last month announced the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. troops and thousands of U.S. contractors. About 7,000 NATO troops also are being withdrawn.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told a hearing in Congress on May 27 that the withdrawal is "slightly" ahead of schedule.

The United States, Britain, and other NATO members have been under pressure to relocate the local staff who served with them during two decades of war.

On May 28, U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Washington isformulating plans to evacuate interpreters and others who worked for U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan over the past two decades.

Milley said the United States recognizes that there are a significant number of Afghans who supported the coalition and the United States, and that they could be at risk for retribution by the Taliban.

"There are plans being developed very, very rapidly here," he said in remarks on May 26 that were released on May 27.

Many of the estimated 18,000 Afghan interpreters, commandos, and others who worked with U.S. forces have applied for visas to immigrate to the United States.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and BBC
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