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Watchdog report finds staffing issues and inefficiency within Afghan resettlement program

A new  report from the Office of Inspector General has found staffing problems and inefficiencies within the Department of Homeland Security’s Operation Allies Welcome — the program launched almost a year ago to evacuate and resettle Afghans after U.S. troops withdrew and the Taliban seized power. 

In August of last year, the U.S. evacuated more than 80,000 Afghan nationals, American citizens and legal permanent residents as part of the program, including those who had worked with the U.S. military, human rights workers, journalists  and others deemed vulnerable under Taliban rule. Many were brought to  American military bases, called safe havens, to begin the process of resettlement around the U.S.

But the report says DHS failed to adequately staff safe havens as Afghans waited there for months. With positions like social workers, pharmacists, and teachers unfilled, it says existing staff worried they’d have to cut vital services. 

In February, the agency announced some 76,000 Afghans part of Operation Allies Welcome had left safe havens for resettlement. But advocates warn many still lack a pathway to permanent residency in the U.S., while others are still trapped in a legal limboabroad.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.