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State Dept. expands eligibility for Afghan refugees to resettle in U.S.

A young refugee is seen at a place known as Tent City outside of Camp Fenty in Afghanistan. File Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/U.S. Air Force/UPI
A young refugee is seen at a place known as "Tent City" outside of Camp Fenty in Afghanistan. File Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/U.S. Air Force/UPI

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. officials announced on Monday that they are expanding the number of refugees who will be allowed to flee rising violence in Afghanistan and resettle in the United States.

The State Department said it's created a second qualification category, called "Priority 2," for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

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The new category will make eligible Afghan civilians who have worked for U.S.-based news organizations, U.S.-based aid or development programs and U.S. government or NATO programs.

U.S. officials are expanding eligibility because such Afghans could become targets of rising violence by the Taliban after American forces fully withdraw from Afghanistan.

The department said cases for the Priority 2 category will be processed in third countries once the applicants are outside of Afghanistan.

"The U.S. objective remains a peaceful and secure Afghanistan," a department official said in a statement.

"Many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members are at risk due to these U.S. affiliations and are not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa. However, they may be eligible for a P-2 referral."

Some Afghan refugees who have aided U.S. operations in Afghanistan over the past 20 years began arriving in the United States last week.

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In a speech to lawmakers on Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the U.S. withdrawal for the rise in Taliban fighting.

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