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Majority of Afghan interpreters left behind: Senior State Dept. official

Taliban
Taliban fighters atop vehicles with Taliban flags parade along a road to celebrate after the US pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, in Kandahar on September 1, 2021 following the Talibans military takeover of the country. (Photo by JAVED TANVEER / AFP) (Photo by JAVED TANVEER/AFP via Getty Images) |

While the United States has evacuated more than 123,000 people out of Afghanistan, the majority of Afghan interpreters who are at risk of Taliban reprisal for helping the U.S. and up to 200 Americans have been left behind, a senior State Department official and other government officials said.

“The majority of” Afghan visa applicants haven’t been evacuated, a State Department official, who has not been named, told The Wall Street Journal.

Among them is an Afghan interpreter who was part of a 2008 mission to rescue Joe Biden, who was a senator at the time, and two other Democrat senators when their helicopter made an emergency landing in blinding snow in a valley 20 miles southeast of Bagram Air Field, the Journal said, adding that the man is now in hiding.

Over 20,000 Afghans had applied for visas when the U.S. decided to withdraw troops from their country. When including their family members who would also need to escape the Taliban, the number rises to around 100,000 Afghans who might be eligible for relocation, the Journal estimates.

The State Department estimates that up to 200 Americans who wanted to leave have also been left behind.

At least 24 Sacramento-area students are also confirmed to be stranded in the South Asian country. The Sacramento Bee quoted San Juan Unified school district staff as saying that 24 students, down from the initial estimate of 150 students, had not returned to campuses since the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

“Our office has been in close contact with the San Juan Unified School District, and have urgently flagged the students’ information with the State Department and Department of Defense. We have not received an update from the State Department or the DOD,” Sacramento Congressman Ami Bera’s office said in a statement.

Among the stranded Americans is a pregnant American from California, whom Taliban militants kicked in the stomach as she tried to flee Kabul with her husband and father, Fox News reported.

“She was kicked in the stomach, but she was kicked in the stomach well after — as she got through the first checkpoint where she remained for hours, waiting for those people at the south point to supposedly come out and get her,” U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was quoted as saying.

“It wasn’t until it was clear they’d closed, [that] they weren’t taking anyone else for quite a while, that finally she accepted that she was going to have to go back and hide in her apartment,” Issa added.

The U.S. and its allies evacuated more than 123,000 people out of Afghanistan in the final weeks of the mission.

Human rights group ADF International has also urged the international community to address the “dire plight” of religious minority communities in Afghanistan, including 10,000 Christians who are now “at extreme risk of being targeted with deadly violence.”

Following the drawing down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly seized control of much of the country, eventually taking the capital Kabul last month and forcing the government to flee. In response to the unexpected speed at which they retook the nation, tens of thousands of Americans, Afghan allies, and others desperately tried to leave the country.

Last Thursday, a suicide bombing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul killed 10 U.S. Marines, two Army soldiers and one Navy Corpsman, along with as many as 170 civilians, most of whom were awaiting their evacuation.

The explosion came less than a week before the Aug. 31 deadline to withdrawl all U.S. troops from the South Asian country. 

In response, the U.S. purportedly killed two high profile terrorists from ISIS-K — one “planner” and one “facilitator,” in a drone strike in Afghanistan.

The withdrawal marked the end of the war in Afghanistan, which spanned nearly two decades. In an appearance on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s “The National Desk” last Monday, Adam Andrzejewski, the CEO of the nonprofit transparency organization OpentheBooks.com, noted that the war effort has cost American taxpayers $83 billion.

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