The window for a possible evacuation of Afghans who worked for the U.S. could soon close as a withdrawal of U.S. forces will likely wrap up within weeks, two Defense officials told NBC News.
The Pentagon is preparing contingency plans for a potential evacuation of thousands of Afghans who helped American troops but President Joe Biden has yet to give the order to carry them out. U.S. forces are expected to pull out as early as mid-July, the two officials said.
Advocates for an urgent evacuation argue that organizing such an operation after U.S. troops leave would be more dangerous, more expensive and politically more complicated. Drones and intelligence resources will be gone and the security situation at air bases will be uncertain.
About 18,000 Afghans have applied for visas under the Special Immigrant Visa program set up in 2009 for those who worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan. But the program has a years-long backlog.
"We don't have much time," said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a vocal proponent of evacuating Afghans. "We're about 50 percent complete with the withdrawal"