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How Many Afghans Were Left Behind? No One Knows

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The American disastrous withdraw from Afghanistan has ended, two weeks of airlifts from Kabul’s International Airport under the ominous eye of the Taliban ended a few days after ISIS-K launched a devastating terrorist attack that left 13 American soldiers and hundreds of Afghans dead. However, despite the Administration’s claims that the airlift was a success, it is becoming increasingly clear that thousands of Afghan allies who were approved to come to the U.S. were left behind, their fate in the hands of the Taliban.

According to State Department officials, a majority of the afghans who have been approved for an SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) hadn’t been evacuated from Afghanistan, with the official saying that while the U.S. government does not have accurate data on who was left behind enemy lines, they estimate that “a majority” of the SIV approved afghans have not been evacuated from now Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The U.S. conducted a chaotic and hasty evacuation after Kabul had fallen to the Taliban (EFE)

Differing estimates

According to official figures, the U.S. and its allies evacuated an estimated total of 123,000 people from Afghanistan, including foreign nationals, afghan allies, and their immediate families. However, the American government has yet to release detailed data on the composition of those evacuated.

Afghans who had worked with the American military during these last twenty years had the option to apply for an SIV, which would allow them to leave their country and resettle in the United States, many translators, and afghan allies did this in order to avoid the deadly punishments the Taliban inflicted on the Afghan allies that had the misfortune of falling into their hands.

The fact that a majority of Afghans who had begun the legal and tedious process to get legal entry to the U.S. were left behind, while there are reports that Afghans who did not have paperwork managed to get out of the country is a testament to the chaotic nature of the Kabul evacuation.

It has been estimated that, as of May of 2021, almost 18,000-20,000 Afghans had applied to SIV visas. Politicians and advocates from both sides of the political spectrum had started pressuring the Biden Administration to expedite the SIV process, in order to ensure the safety of those afghans who had aided the American effort in Afghanistan.

Thousands of Afghan allies have been left behind to Taliban rule (EFE)

Biden was warned

Back in June, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) who is the ranking Democrat in teh Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, had urged the Bien White House to do more to ensure the processing of afghans who wanted to leave the country sending a letter to the President said America had a “moral obligation to these Afghans and their families who face persecution and threats to their lives because of their support for Americans in Afghanistan.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) also warned, in July, the administration of the danger that thousands of Afghan allies faced in the light of the ongoing Taliban advance in Afghanistan. Both Senators, who sit at the Senate’s Intelligence Committee signed a letter to the President highlighting that “thousands” of Afghans were “in the pipelines” and that the timeline of the SIV program, which was a years-long process, did not “align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security”.

Politicians were not the only ones to warn the President of the need to evacuate America’s Afghan allies, media outlets (both liberal and conservative) also warned the President that it was a moral duty of the U.S. to help their local allies to get out of Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by the Editorial Board saying that Biden had “an obligation” to aid those who have served alongside American troops, and the Washington Post (hardly an arch-conservative newspaper) also published an article back in June that “an avoidable tragedy” was looming for the allies of the U.S. in Afghanistan, and that leaving them behind would be a “sorry betrayal”.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin admitted recently that the SIV program was “obviously not designed to accommodate what we just did” and that the program “was designed to be a slow process”, which is the same conclusion that Senators Rubio and Warner had reached months ago.

It is understandable that President Biden did not read the article published by us, regretfully, what is alarming is that the President decided to ignore the pleading of powerful Democratic Senators and the mainstream media.

Would the fate of many allies be much clearer had the administration heeded the advice and taken proactive action to evacuate the thousands of Afghan allies who helped the United States? Probably, however, we would never know with certainty the answer to that question.

Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.

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