The Biden administration left behind in Afghanistan hundreds of U.S.-sponsored journalists and their families in the chaotic withdrawal from the Taliban-controlled country.
Despite President Biden promising to get every journalist out, the reporters employed by the US Agency for Global Media were left stranded.
Fox News confirmed that Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists were unable to get aboard the last flights from Afghanistan on Monday.
News of the journalists being left behind comes after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that groups prioritized by the Biden administration had made it to evacuation planes.
Lawmakers had raised the alarm about the individuals affiliated with USAGM, an independent federal agency funded by Congress that oversees several news organizations, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
“It is absolutely disgraceful the US State Department claimed they evacuated their local employees when in reality they abandoned hundreds of USAGM journalists and their families,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Tuesday.
The Texas lawmaker said that 500 journalists employed by the US agency and family members remain stranded in Afghanistan.
The journalists were supposed to be treated as locally employed staff for the US Embassy and were added to a US Central Command “high priority list” — but couldn’t get out due to a slew of issues, including miscommunications, the security situation and the Taliban not clearing them for exit, sources told USA Today.
Only 50 USAMG journalists were able to leave, but with help from other governments, according to the outlet.
Some of the journalists have worked in Afghanistan for years, while facing threats and attacks from the Taliban.
“These Afghan allies are among the people most endangered at the present moment for the good work they have done over two decades,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin. “Urgent attention must now turn to finding the best way to get them to safety.”
Jamie Fly, president of RFE/RL, an independent grantee of the USAGM, told Rogin that several of his journalists made trips to the Kabul airport on their own, but couldn’t get onto evacuation flights.
“You would have expected that the United States government, which helped create the space for journalism and civil society in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, would have tried to do more over the last several weeks to assist journalists who made a decision that it was best for them to leave the country,” Fly said. “But they consistently failed to do that.”
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Fly added. “These are journalists who have spent their lives trying to provide news and information for the Afghan people and who have often come under assault for doing so. The future scenario for journalism in Afghanistan is incredibly tenuous.”
A spokesperson for USAGM confirmed to Rogin that their staffers were among those who had not been evacuated, but declined to discuss specifics.
“Our focus continues to be getting our people to safety,” the spokesperson said. “This is a life and death matter for many of our journalists and their families, and their safe passage remains our highest priority.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price told USA Today that the US remains committed to getting the USAGM staffers and their families out of Afghanistan.
“We did not forget about USAGM employees and their families, nor will we,” Price said. “We remain keenly focused on getting them out safely just as soon as we can.”