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US curtailing evacuation of Afghans who worked for US to prioritize Americans

The last flight for the time being of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families bound for Fort Lee, Virginia, has left Afghanistan, four sources said.

One source said that the limitation on the number of flights that are able to transit in and out of the Kabul airport — which was a scene of mass panic and chaos on Sunday — has impeded efforts to evacuate the Afghans who worked alongside the US in its two-decade military campaign.

It is unclear how long the pause in inbound flights will last and the situation remains fluid. As of last week refugee resettlement agencies were preparing for a large influx of Afghan arrivals, two of the sources said, and Biden administration officials were discussing an uptick in SIV flights.

The sudden decrease in flights comes as the Afghan government has fallen and the Taliban have taken control of Kabul.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

The US can move a maximum of 5,000 people per day out of Hamid Karzai International Airport, but the military has not yet reached that peak capacity. A defense official said the US would be able to move that many people within days, a precarious timeline given the speed with which the Taliban took over Kabul.

US nearing deal with Qatar to house thousands of Afghans who helped military, as situation worsens in Afghanistan

As of last Thursday, 1,200 Afghans and their families had been evacuated to America as part of the administration’s “Operation Allies Refuge,” according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price. Those Afghans had been processed at Fort Lee in Virginia, but there are current efforts underway to prepare more US military bases to take in SIV applicants, including Fort Bliss in Texas, two sources familiar with the discussions said.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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