Nearly four months after the Taliban reconquered Afghanistan from the Western-backed government, the State Department said Monday that it knows of fewer than a dozen US citizens who wish to leave the war-torn country.
In a statement, the department said it had “directly assisted” 479 Americans and 450 green card holders — as well as their immediate families — in leaving Afghanistan and relocating to the US since the official end of the chaotic American military evacuation on Aug. 31.
Officials said those Americans who wish to leave Afghanistan “are prepared to depart, and have the necessary travel documents.”
The State Department also said it had been able to relocate more than 2,200 Afghan allies — many of whom are holders of, or applicants for, special immigrant visas (SIVs).
The State Department statement did not say how many Afghan allies who wish to leave remain in the country.
Since the end of August, the US has received over 74,000 Afghans, with another 3,000 being processed for entry at various locations overseas. The State Department said it has funding to support resettlement of up to 95,000 people through the end of September 2022.
“Individuals relocated from Afghanistan undergo a rigorous and multilayered screening and vetting process prior to their arrival in the United States and undergo additional screening at their Port of Entry, led by the Department of Homeland Security,” the department insisted. “They are required to receive critical vaccinations.”
According to the statement, “more than 40 percent” (approximately 30,000) of Afghans who have arrived in the US are eligible for SIVs as they or an immediate family member worked with or on behalf of the US government or its NATO partners in Afghanistan. While some new arrivals had their applications in the pipeline, others never bothered to fill out the required paperwork, according to the State Department.
The Biden administration received bipartisan backlash for its execution of the withdrawal, which included an ISIS terror attack that killed 13 US service members and nearly 200 Afghans at Kabul’s international airport. When the last American military flight left Afghanistan on Aug. 30, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, admitted: “We did not get out everybody we had wanted to get out” and estimated that the number of Americans left on the ground was in the “low hundreds.”
In the absence of help from the government, private citizens launched their own evacuation efforts. Many veteran and volunteer organizations took charge in the months that followed and successfully extracted thousands of people from Afghanistan.
The Biden administration has repeatedly insisted that there is “no deadline” for evacuating remaining US citizens and Afghan allies.
Meanwhile, many Republicans have criticized the administration’s vetting process, claiming most Afghans allowed in the US have not been properly screened for links to terror groups.
President Biden has defended his order to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan, telling “CBS News Sunday Morning” this past weekend: “We were spending $300 million a week in Afghanistan, over 20 years. Now, everybody says, ‘You could have gotten out without anybody being hurt.’ No one’s come up with a way to ever indicate to me how that happens.”