More than 82,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan as of Wednesday morning (25) and nearly 6,000 American soldiers are guarding the international airport in Kabul, the capital of the Asian country.
Additionally, US flights depart every 45 minutes, and Joe Biden’s government has provided a series of air rescue updates for Americans, Afghans and others since August 14, when the Taliban besieged and took Kabul.
But US officials are reluctant to give an estimate of the larger number: after all, how many people need to be rescued?
This bill has never been more important as the US government prepares to end evacuations and its military begins the final withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, Biden confirmed the plan to withdraw all US troops by August 31, but left room “to adjust the schedule if necessary.”
Authorities say they believe thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan, including people far from Kabul, without a safe and quick way to reach the airport. Tens of thousands of Afghans who have worked for the US government for the past 20 years – and qualify for special visas – are desperate to leave.
Refugee and resettlement experts estimate that at least 300,000 Afghans are in imminent danger of being targeted by the Taliban for joining US and US efforts to stabilize the country.
Biden told the White House on Tuesday night that world leaders had agreed to “continue our close cooperation to get people out as efficiently and safely as possible.” “We are currently on a pace to finish [a retirada] until August 31, ”said the Democrat. “The sooner we get it, the better. “
But other senior US officials doubt the evacuation will be completed by then.
Doesn’t the US government know the number of Americans in Afghanistan?
More or less.
The American Embassy in Kabul contacted Americans who were in the country and offered them safe passage to Kabul airport, from where they should depart. But the alerts only concern Americans who reported their whereabouts to the government before the fall of Kabul or the following week.
The situation has led US authorities to check databases which may be very outdated or with fewer numbers than the actual number of US citizens in the country. A Biden administration official said the majority of Americans in Afghanistan are dual nationals and may not have registered with the embassy or notified the US government of their location.
“It is our responsibility to find them, and we do it hour by hour,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday. “In the days that remain, we believe that we will have the means to remove American citizens who wish to leave Kabul.”
More than 4,000 US citizens and their families have been evacuated so far, a State Department official said on Tuesday. Thousands remain: a day earlier, a congressional official estimated the total number of US citizens still in Afghanistan at 10,000.
It was not known how many of the 4000 who had already been evacuated were included in this count.
Why has it been so difficult to assess who is eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)? Doesn’t the United States have payment records or personnel lists to go with that?
First, a little bit of the history of the so-called SIV program.
In 2009, Congress approved the special refuge for Afghans who worked for the US military and the US Embassy as interpreters, translators, advisers and other positions during the war and who could be the target of Taliban or other extremists for helping the United States.
The International Relief Commission estimates that there are tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for special visas. But only about 16,000 of them have received such visas since 2014, and the State Department was facing a backlog of more than 17,000 when Biden took over in January.
Between mid-July and August 14, the State Department evacuated approximately 2,000 Afghans who qualified for visas. After a multi-day hiatus last week as the Biden administration focused on evacuating U.S. citizens and embassy staff, flights have resumed for former Afghan officials.
The first plane loaded with special visa holders since the fall of Kabul left Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the United States on Monday morning. A congressional aide said the government had identified around 50,000 special visa applicants, along with their families, as likely to be evacuated. But the advisor said many more qualify.
When the Americans and the SIV carriers are evacuated, will the mission be over?
Far from there. Washington recognizes that there are hundreds of thousands of Afghans deemed at high risk of retaliation by the Taliban – former Afghan security forces, government officials, journalists, judges, prosecutors and rights activists women, among others.
The State Department said it had expedited its shipments of high-risk Afghans to the US refugee admissions program. But the program typically requires Afghans to apply through the UN refugee agency and wait for approval – a process that can take years.
On Friday (20), the State Department planned to accept up to 50,000 Afghans to the United States on conditional humanitarian status, meaning they would be temporarily housed at military bases until visas were issued. processed, according to a note provided by a resettlement officer.
Is it possible to remove so many people in time?
It’s unlikely. The evacuation mission should be reduced to a dropper when the US military leaves Afghanistan. Without the protection of the 6,000 US military personnel in Kabul, the military airlift will end and State Department charter flights will decline and may cease altogether.
In addition, other governments have said they will have little choice but to step back.
The Biden administration is warning the Taliban, who want international aid to Afghanistan to continue, to allow Afghans to leave the country, State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “no has no expiration date “.
“So it certainly seems reasonable – and we will hold the Taliban accountable, like the rest of the world – that people who wish to leave after the US military leaves have the option of doing so,” Price said on Monday.