SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon, everyone. I just had the opportunity to visit Camp As Sayliyah. This is the joint operation of the Department of Defense and the Department of State to help bring Afghans, Afghan allies to the United States. This is where we work to medically examine them, to screen them for security purposes, and to complete the consular processing that comes with obtaining their visas to come to the United States.
It’s a remarkable operation that brings together different parts of our government, starting with DOD and the state, but also DHS, DOJ, FBI, other agencies. For me, it was really important to have the chance to see the whole team working on it. I’ve done this all over the world, as well as in Dulles when we brought people there, and it’s especially rewarding too. I have been fortunate to spend time with children who, while at Camp As Sayliyah, go to school – learn English, do math, learn history and geography – children not much older than mine. And I had the opportunity to tell them that in my case, at an age not very different from theirs, I moved from my own country, the United States, to another, and I know how much that can be scary, how difficult it can be, but also how wonderful that there are so many people in the United States who look forward to welcoming them.
At Camp As Sayliyah, since the start of the Afghan evacuation, about 23,000 Afghans have passed through; 21,000 are already in the United States, and we are trying to keep bringing Afghans here. We are grateful to our colleagues in Qatar for supporting this operation and helping so many Afghans find new lives in the United States.
At the same time, overall, since the beginning of this administration, we have worked to reboot, streamline, expedite the entire process to bring Afghans to the United States who are eligible for special limited visas. These are the Afghans who have worked side by side with us, with the Department of Defense, with the Department of State, with others in Afghanistan for 20 years. Early in our administration, we invested significant additional resources. We worked to streamline the process Congress mandated to quadruple the number of people working on SIV visa processing. The net result is, among other things, that to make the initial determination of eligibility – a critical step in the process – we have reduced that time from approximately 883 days at the start of our administration to 105 days now. We continue to look for ways to streamline the travel process for those attempting to come to the United States on special immigrant visas.
I said at the start, when we did the evacuation from Afghanistan, that it would be a long mission to bring Afghans who were standing with us to the United States. This mission continues, this mission endures, and we will carry it out.