The United States announced Monday it is expanding eligibility for resettling refugees from Afghanistan who may be at risk of Taliban retaliation due to affiliation with U.S. entities.
The State Department said thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members who worked for the U.S. government, a U.S.-funded project, the NATO-led military mission, or a U.S.-based media or nongovernmental organization are now eligible.
A State Department statement said access to the U.S. refugee admissions program "is a critical mechanism to provide protection for these individuals."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to speak about the action later Monday.
The move comes as the United States winds down its military presence in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. A more limited group of Afghans was already eligible for resettlement under the State Department's Special Immigrant Visa program.
The United States and NATO allies announced May 1 they were beginning to withdraw their last remaining troops from the country, and the Pentagon said in early July its withdrawal was 90% complete. The process is due to be complete by August 31.
Since international troops started leaving, Taliban insurgents have unleashed a widespread onslaught against Afghan forces, capturing nearly half of the country's roughly 420 districts.