Up to 15K Americans Are Still in Afghanistan, and It's a Big Mess

It's not clear what will happen to those outside Kabul
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2021 1:55 AM CDT
Updated Aug 18, 2021 6:50 AM CDT
It's Not Clear What Will Happen to Americans Stuck Outside Kabul
Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug.16. 2021.   (Verified UGC via AP)

Americans are being evacuated from Afghanistan amid the Taliban's takeover of the country, but as many as 15,000 still remain there, according to administration sources who spoke to NBC News and the Washington Post. About 1,100 had been evacuated as of Tuesday night, but "now that we have established the flow, we expect those numbers to escalate," the White House said in a statement. By Wednesday, as many as 9,000 people could be evacuated per day, per a Pentagon briefing. The Taliban has promised safe passage for civilians heading to the Kabul airport, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan says the US plans "to hold them to that commitment." More:

  • About that promise: Congressional sources tell the Hill "desperate" US citizens and Afghans have contacted them, saying they're not able to get to the airport even though the Taliban said safe passage would be allowed. Some say they've been threatened with violence by the Taliban. Others say they made it to the airport only to be turned away by overwhelmed guards.
  • Another snag: Sources say there is not yet a plan to evacuate US citizens who are outside Kabul, because there is no way for them to get through Taliban checkpoints. It's not clear how many are outside the capital city.
  • Opinion: An editorial at the Wall Street Journal notes that while it's good news the US military has control of the Kabul airport, with several thousand troops stationed there, the bad news is that the Biden administration may decide to "withdraw US troops too soon once again, leaving tens of thousands to the tender mercies of the Taliban." Biden has pledged to have all troops out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31, but "leaving Afghan translators and others behind would be a betrayal of the US commitment," the editorial board writes. About 50,000 Afghans who qualify for a Special Immigrant Visa because they helped the US are spread out in the country, not necessarily in Kabul.

  • About that deadline: Asked whether she could guarantee US citizens and SIV applicants who remained in Afghanistan after Aug. 31 would be evacuated, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to offer a guarantee Tuesday. "Our focus right now is on doing the work at hand and on the task at hand," she said. Fox News notes many conservative commentators were outraged at that stance. Others in the administration have similarly deferred questions about whether the final withdrawal deadline can be extended, though Sullivan clarified Tuesday that all Americans will be evacuated.
  • It's not just conservatives: The Biden administration is being increasingly criticized for not preparing more adequately for this scenario, the Hill notes.
  • Trouble for Afghans trying to get out: The American personnel charged with destroying all sensitive documents at the US Embassy destroyed passports belonging to some Afghans, CNN reports. It's not clear why—possibly because they thought the passport holders would be targeted by the Taliban otherwise—but that will complicate those Afghans' efforts to leave the country.
  • Personal stories: Fox News has the story of a Colorado family that was visiting family when the Taliban took control of the country, and is now stranded. CNN has the stories of Afghans who helped the US but are now in hiding, with their visa applications stuck in limbo.
(More Afghanistan stories.)

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