Nearly three months after the last US military plane departed Afghanistan, the Pentagon is still trying to rescue family members of American troops in the war-torn country and is working to compile a database of those left behind, according to a report.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl released a memo last Thursday asking US military personnel and Department of Defense civilians to email his office with the names of immediate family members who need help leaving Afghanistan, NBC News reported.
The memo also instructed them to include passport, contact and other personal information about the family members that will be included in the database.
Several dozen immediate family members — children, sisters, brothers and parents — of US service personnel are still in Afghanistan, the report said, citing defense officials.
More than 100 extended family members are still there, but the report said it’s unclear how many of them want to leave.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Monday confirmed that the memo had been sent to alert the service members that their family members “are eligible for facilitated departure.”
He said information provided would be passed along to the State Department Action Group that is working on getting them out of the country.
Kirby said he doesn’t have “updated numbers” on the number of family members inside Afghanistan.
“And it might be some time before we’re able to do that. But I think it’s safe to say, I mean, that we would expect dozens of service members would have concerns over family members,” Kirby said at Monday’s Department of Defense briefing.
“And again, the reason we put the memo out was to encourage them. If they have family members that they believe qualify that we want them to come forward. Let us know who they are, give us as much information as we can,” he said.
A defense official told NBC that the memo shows a “deliberate effort” by the Defense Department to get an accounting of the numbers of people.
“There is an increased desire to make sure that as we make this push that we have every situation accounted for,” the official told NBC.
Other than passing information along, the US military will play no role in the evacuations, leaving the State Department to run that operation to get people out of Afghanistan, the report said.
Many of the service members who still have family in the country were born in Afghanistan, the report said.
Some worked alongside US troops as interpreters and moved to the US and enlisted before the pullout in August.
Members of Congress, including Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), have written to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking them to get involved and expedite the process.
“Over the past month, I have been contacted by hundreds of Texans who are desperately trying to get friends and family members safe out of the country,” McCaul wrote in a letter dated Sept. 23. “That includes the family members of several Texans who currently serve in the military.”
“The federal government has turned their backs on them. If we abandon the family members of our servicemen and women in Afghanistan, they will certainly be slaughtered by the Taliban,” he wrote.
President Biden was criticized for the tumultuous and disastrous manner in which his administration carried out the withdrawal that ended America’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan.
The bulk of US forces were evacuated before American civilians and Afghan allies, leaving a small number of troops left to defend the country and guard the Kabul airport.
Facing little resistance, Taliban fighters quickly overran the country and marched into the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15 to take control of the government.
Mobs of Afghans fearing the return of Taliban rule descended on the airport, desperate to catch a flight out of the country.
The numbers of Afghans trying to flee clogged the streets around Hamid Karzai International Airport, creating chaos that an ISIS-K terrorist used as cover to set off a suicide bomb that killed 13 US service members.