Veteran diplomat Elizabeth Jones will be the new coordinator for Afghan relocation efforts, the State Department announced on Tuesday, Politico reported.
Jones will replace John Bass, the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
“Ambassador Jones is exceptionally well-equipped to take on this critical role,” Price said, adding that she is returning from her retirement from the foreign service in order to take the position.
Jones, who served as ambassador to Kazakhstan and as deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be responsible for overseeing every aspect of the operation, from facilitating the departures of those who still want to leave Afghanistan, to relocating them in the United States, Price said.
Price emphasized that Jones will mainly focus on relocation out of Afghanistan; transit to third countries and processing outside the United States; resettlement; and overall outreach.
The State Department made the announcement as the Group of 20 met for an emergency virtual summit on Afghanistan, pledging to help solve the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.
President Joe Biden nominated Bass in July to be undersecretary of state for management, although his status is still pending with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Biden administration sent Bass to Kabul in August on a temporary basis to oversee relocation attempts as the security situation deteriorated. He then returned to Washington in order to continue to facilitate departures from Afghanistan.
The Biden administration has helped facilitate the evacuation of some 125,000 people, mostly “Afghans at risk” of retribution from the Taliban, The Hill reported.
The White House announced last month that there are some 50,000 Afghans on military bases in the U.S., with an additional approximately 13,000 expected to be transferred soon from military bases in Europe.
However, the administration has admitted that a large number of those who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas to the U.S. for their help alongside American forces over the past two decades were left behind in Afghanistan, with advocates putting that number at some 100,000.
U.S. officials met with Taliban representatives in Qatar last week in an attempt to press for their safe passage out of the country, Price said