800 Americans evacuated from Afghanistan since Taliban takeover

A State Department spokesperson confirmed the number of US citizens evacuated and added that at least 600 lawful permanent residents of the United States have also been evacuated since the US boots left the ground.

Two weeks after the last US plane left Kabul on August 30, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers there were only 100 US citizens left in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, stressing that the estimate was a “snapshot in time”. As of February 2022, the United States had evacuated 479 Americans from Afghanistan, according to a GOP report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Now, an investigation by Republican staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has found that 800 Americans have been helped to leave Afghanistan, indicating that the Biden administration has underestimated the number of Americans who wanted to leave the country or saw an increase in the number of citizens willing to leave the country. leave.

A committee aide suggested that the number of US citizens driven out of Afghanistan may be even higher. “Whether they had travel documents or whether they could get to Kabul, that was part of that factor,” the staffer said, referring to those who remained after last August’s frantic evacuation. .

The actual number could be closer to 1,000, the aide said, to include those who left Afghanistan through privately-funded organizations – many of whom were aided by outreach efforts by vice-presidential advisers. President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden, according to the survey. These separate efforts were necessary in part because only 36 U.S. consular officers were on the ground in Kabul to help process evacuees, the report concludes.

The panel’s Republican staff compiled the data as part of a 118-page report that examines the actions of administrations on both sides that led to the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, as well as the inability to adequately plan what has become a chaotic situation and a murderous withdrawal from the country. This included a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s main airport that killed 13 American soldiers and 160 Afghans.

“Choices made in the halls of power in DC have led to tragic but preventable results: 13 servicemen dead, American lives still at great risk, increased threats to the security of our homeland, a tarnished reputation abroad for years to come and emboldened enemies across the globe,” the report said.

POLITICO previously reported that the committee’s GOP leader, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, hired former CNN Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne, a former Afghan National Army embedded contract adviser, to be the lead investigator.

While the Biden administration was open with the panel about ongoing evacuation efforts, committee aides said they ran into a wall of resistance from the State Department and the Pentagon on a variety of issues. other investigations into the American withdrawal. The report drew on testimony from whistleblowers as well as interviews with former officials involved in the overall effort.

The investigation also found evidence that a “significant” number of elite US-trained Afghan commandos fled the country to Iran after the Taliban took over the country, taking with them military equipment and vehicles.

If captured or returned, these commandos could prove to be a “serious threat to national security”, according to the report, which states that the soldiers were trained by American special operators and “know not only our tactics but who are these elite military officials”. ”

The fear is that these commandos will join terrorist groups, voluntarily or out of desperation. There is evidence that some of these fighters joined the Islamic State, according to the committee member.

“The potential exploitation issue is significant because these commandos are in dire straits,” the aide said. “They are often chased by the Taliban authorities. The economic situation is so catastrophic. When people are desperate, they are much easier to co-opt.


Politico

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