Thousands of Afghans who assisted the United States government and military during the two-decade-long war against the Taliban are still stuck in the country — along with thousands more of their family members, advocates tell The Post.
The non-profit volunteer organization No One Left Behind says that it is tracking more than 10,000 Afghans who are either eligible for, applied for, or were approved for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and have requested help getting out of Taliban-controlled territory. No One Left Behind also said that it is tracking another 38,000 family members of SIV holders or applicants who remain in Afghanistan and have asked for aid.
“This is likely a limited picture with more that have not reached out to us, but it underscores the significant volume of people in dire need as winter approaches and Taliban control result[s] in food shortages and human rights abuses, including directly targeting those that helped US forces,” a director at No One Left Behind told The Post.
“We are working tirelessly to make sure these people are not left behind, and we will continue to advocate to the [US Government] that they expand the scope of their evacuations to include these American allies,” the director added.
Currently, the US is only evacuating SIV holders who have “completed their process, either having their visas in hand or were [approved and were] just unable to pick them up,” the director went on.
Task Force Argo co-founder Jesse Jensen told The Post his organization is dealing with a backlog of more than 4,000 people, including family members, who are looking to leave Afghanistan — including one American citizen who is still in the country with their family.
However, Jensen, a former Army Ranger, noted that the number of Afghans who wish to leave is likely well above 4,000 since Task Force Argo had to stop accepting evacuation requests.
“We have really run out of resources in order to do this,” he said. “We’ve had three flights that are paid for, you know we’ll likely have to claw back those funds to return to investors if we don’t see a path to getting these folks out of the country.”
On Monday, the State Department crowed that it was in contact with fewer than a dozen US citizens left in Afghanistan who wished to leave and that it had “directly assisted” in transporting 479 Americans and 450 green card holders, along with their families, back to the US since the official end of the chaotic American military evacuation Aug. 31.
The department also noted it had been able to relocate more than 2,200 Afghan allies since the end of August, but the number remaining behind was conspicuously absent.
Jensen told The Post it was “beyond disappointing” that organizations like Task Force Argo have had to assist in the evacuations since the end of August.
“We’ve rescued 61 American citizens … we’ve rescued 2,126 Afghan allies, American citizens, [and] green card holders in total,” he said, adding that he takes the State Department numbers “with a grain of salt.”
“Part of that is because I think they have purposely obfuscated and tried to keep this out of the national media spotlight,” he said. “And partially because it’s very difficult to track people in Afghanistan. It’s a complicated process.”
Jensen went on to accuse the State Department of trying to thwart Task Force Argo’s rescue attempts over red tape.
“They’re blocking any private rescue organization’s negotiations with third party ‘lily-pad’ countries. We have three flights that have been grounded for over eight weeks with 1,200 souls waiting to be evacuated,” Jensen claimed. “Amongst them are Catholic nuns and American citizen family members and green card holders and other at-risk individuals. And we have not been able to evacuate them because we have no place to take them.”
“Getting American citizens out of a hostile country is baseline, right? That is absolutely expected and I would argue, constitutionally required,” he added. “What are we going to do with the folks that put their lives on the line to protect American citizens and service members that we’re abandoning? And to date it has become very clear that [the] State Department has next to no interest in evacuating those folks, and they’re making it impossible for private rescue organizations to do that.”
The State Department also said Monday that the US has received over 74,000 Afghans since Aug. 31, with another 3,000 currently being processed for entry at various locations overseas. The department added that the government currently has funding to support the resettlement of up to 95,000 people through the end of September of next year.
The Biden administration has been repeatedly slammed for failing to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies from the country before the August deadline — which led to private citizens launching their own rescue efforts.
During Tuesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki repeated the words of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“[He said] if Americans who were in Afghanistan wanted to leave, whether it was three weeks from now, a month from now, two months from now, back in August, we would help them get out,” she said. “And that is something that we’ve delivered on our word on.”
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy later pressed Psaki and asked if President Biden was working daily to help get the remaining Americans out.
“Certainly, he receives regular updates from his team and we, the State Department and other national security officials really, really lead this effort,” Psaki answered. “I would just reiterate that the United States does not track or put a tracker on American citizens traveling overseas, whether they’re in Afghanistan or any country around the world.
“That would be quite a Fox News story, wouldn’t it be, if we did that?” the press secretary continued in a jab at Doocy’s employer. “We don’t do that.”
Blinken has repeatedly insisted there is “no deadline” to evacuate the remaining US citizens and Afghan allies.
The State Department did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
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