Roadside bombing kills at least 11 in Afghanistan, official says

Map showing Zabul province Afghanistan

An estimated 18,000 Afghans are awaiting word on special immigrant visas (SIV) to the USA amid concerns President Joe Biden's administration might not be able to process them all in time.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, Blinken said the U.S.is looking at "every option" to help the Afghan employees - interpreters, drivers, construction workers and other staff - who may become victims of the Taliban as the Pentagon pushes ahead with President Joe Biden's order to remove the troops by September 11 at the latest.

The Taliban said on Saturday that they have "captured the district of Deh Yak" in the province of Ghazni, about 150 kilometres south of Kabul. USA officials argued one reason for the visa slowdown was increasing concern that jihadis could sneak into the United States by posing as interpreters.

The violence came as USA peace envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and a delegation from the National Security Council and Department of Defense traveled to the region to start a new series of talks between the Taliban and the government.

"Afghans can make their own assessments of the good faith of the Taliban's press statements; the Biden administration and Congress must work to provide every possible avenue to safety for vulnerable Afghans as the US withdraws", Bates said in an email to NBC News. While Afghans were viewed as foes when they worked with foreign forces, they will not face any issues "when they abandon enemy ranks", they added. Critics of the Biden administration's announcements anxious that the accelerating pace of US withdrawal could leave some Afghans who worked with the departing American military in peril. Over 3,000 Afghans are expected to relocate to the United Kingdom under the program.

"We are always seeking ways to improve the SIV process while ensuring the integrity of the program and safeguarding our national security and affording opportunities to these Afghans", Price explained to reporters.

He added that the administration has approved a temporary increase in consular staffing at the US embassy in Kabul to conduct interviews and to process visa applications, allowing the diplomatic mission to address cases that were delayed due to COVID-19 staffing reductions and related closures.

In response to lawmakers' questions, Blinken said a backlog of immigration applications is being cleared, and he asked Congress to raise a cap on special immigrant visas for Afghans by 8,000 slots.

The insurgents, who control or hotly contest more than half of Afghan territory, have captured at least 12 districts since the global forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan on May 1.

"When the Taliban came to know that I worked with US forces, they killed my brother". The conflict has killed hundreds of combatants on both sides and many Afghan civilians.

In a 22-page report to the UN Security Council on Friday, a panel of experts said the Taliban are reported to be responsible for the great majority of attacks that have targeted members of security forces, judges, government officials, civil society activists and journalists in recent months.

Afghanistan's Hazaras are often the target of brutal jihadist attacks usually claimed by the Islamic State.

It occurred hours before senior Taliban leaders and United Nations officials met in Qatar on Saturday to discuss the Afghan peace process, security for diplomats and people working for humanitarian agencies in Afghanistan.

Almost 1,800 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first three months of 2021 during fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters despite efforts to find peace.

The authorities said they had only "relocated" their forces from the area.

Foreign air support has until now played a crucial rule in assisting local forces to keep the insurgents from threatening urban centers.

The surge in violence across Afghanistan comes as the U.S. military continues to withdraw its remaining 2 500 troops from Afghanistan even as peace talks to end the war remain deadlocked.

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