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Americans left behind in Afghanistan far exceed State Dept. claims: Senate report

Taliban
Taliban fighters parade along a road to celebrate after the United States pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, in Kandahar on September 1, 2021 following the Taliban's military takeover. |

A new report from U.S. Senate Republicans estimates that the Biden administration left hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans behind in Afghanistan, casting doubt on the official statistics compiled by the U.S. State Department. 

The Republicans on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led by Ranking Member Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, released a report last week titled “Left Behind: A Brief Assessment of the Biden Administration’s Strategic Failures during the Afghanistan Evacuation.”

The report elaborated on the consequences of the Biden administration’s withdrawal of the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan last summer, which followed nearly two decades of consistent military presence in the Central Asian country. 

“On August 31, 2021, the United States concluded its military engagement in Afghanistan,” a summary of the report states. “The failure of senior Biden Administration leadership to plan for this fateful day resulted in a rushed evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Americans, third-country nationals, and Afghans. It left behind hundreds, possibly thousands, of American citizens, tens of thousands of Afghan partners, and a legacy of betrayal of American allies.”

The report states that from Aug. 15 until Aug. 31, the U.S. “completed its largest air evacuation.” But the Republicans contend that the evacuation was “marred by a lack of planning, coordination, and communication.”

“The United States failed to establish a clear system of how to contact evacuees and processes to allow them into the airport,” the report reads. “The result left Americans, U.S. legal permanent residents, and Afghan allies abandoned to the fate of the Taliban regime.”

Chapter 2 of the report focuses specifically on the impact of the Afghanistan withdrawal on the American citizens in Afghanistan. It noted that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had assured the House Foreign Relations Committee members last September that “approximately 100-150 [American citizens] remained in Afghanistan who still wished to depart.”

The report suggests that the numbers presented to Congress by Blinken do not match the statistics previously shared by the State Department at the beginning and end of the evacuation effort.

“On August 17, 2021, and at the height of evacuation efforts, Senior State Department officials leading the evacuation task force indicated that there were 10,000 to 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan, according to the F-77 report. By August 31, when the president ordered an end to evacuation operations, State and DoD had evacuated approximately 6,000 American citizens,” the report adds. 

Subtracting the 6,000 Americans who successfully evacuated from Afghanistan from either the 10,000 or 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan at the beginning of the evacuation effort means that between 4,000 and 9,000 American citizens remained in Afghanistan, far more than the estimate of 100-150 that Blinken provided to Congress.

The State Department later increased the estimated number of Americans left behind in Afghanistan to approximately 200, a figure significantly smaller than the 4,000 to 9,000 Americans that the report suggests may remain. 

In August, President Joe Biden declared in a speech that “90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave.”

In a tweet announcing the report, Risch said that “Americans share outrage over how the admin. withdrew, & what that failure has done to America’s reputation,” even if they disagree with whether U.S. troops should have been pulled from Afghanistan. 

“My report describes how the Biden Administration’s failure of duty allowed for a quick Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and a botched withdrawal that left hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan partners behind,” Risch said in a statement. “The United States will have to deal with the fallout of this failure for years to come, so it is imperative that we mitigate the strategic implications to ensure we do not repeat mistakes.”

The report claims that the National Security Council “wasted 115 days” and “did not conduct its first senior meeting to discuss the withdrawal until August 14 at 3:30 pm, just hours before Kabul fell, when evacuations became life or death for Americans, Afghans, and U.S. military
personnel.”

“The Biden Administration’s senior leaders have argued the disaster in Afghanistan was inevitable and there was nothing anyone could do about it,” the report adds. “These
arguments are indeed true, but only because after squandering 115 days, events would control them, not the other way around.”

The report concludes that the Biden administration “squandered precious time, ignored intelligence and recommendations from people on the ground, and refused bipartisan support to give them the resources to succeed.”

The White House pushed back on the report in a statement shared by The Hill

“When we took office, we got to work rebuilding a refugee resettlement program that had been systematically dismantled, revitalizing an SIV program that had not even interviewed people in 300 days, and began contingency planning for any number of scenarios,” a White House spokesperson was quoted as saying. 

“It was due to that planning and other efforts that we were able to facilitate the evacuation of more than 120,000 Americans, legal permanent residents, vulnerable Afghans and other partners in a few short weeks.”

The spokesperson added that the administration had sped up Special Immigrant Visa processing and “pre-positioned military assets ... ultimately allowed us to secure and operate Kabul’s airport and facilitate over 120,000 departures by August 31, under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.”

The situation has deteriorated rapidly for those remaining in Afghanistan as the Taliban has taken control of the country.

Christians residing in the country face adverse treatment from the Taliban. Open Doors USA, an advocacy group that monitors persecution of Christians in over 60 countries, has labeled Afghanistan “the most dangerous place on the planet to be a Christian.”

Open Doors USA ranked Afghanistan at the top of its 2022 World Watch List, an annual report profiling countries where Christians face the most persecution. 

At a press conference announcing the 2022 World Watch List, Open Doors USA CEO David Curry detailed how the Taliban, which views Christians as infidels, subjects them to torture and even death.

The insurgent group gained access to a list of Christians in Afghanistan, Open Doors stated. As a result, Christians who remain in the country are “either on the run or in hiding.” 

Another advocacy group dedicated to profiling and combating the persecution of Christians, International Christian Concern, listed the Taliban as one of its “Persecutors of the Year” in a report last year. ICC cited the Taliban’s resurgence following the Afghanistan withdrawal as s factor influencing its presence on the list.

ICC President Jeff King spoke of the Taliban going door-to-door searching for Christians, whom they torture before giving “a chance to turn back to Islam.” Those who decline to convert are tortured further and then killed.

The impact of the Afghanistan withdrawal also extends to domestic politics. In the days following the Afghanistan withdrawal, public opinion polling conducted by Rasmussen Reports revealed that most Americans (52%) wanted President Joe Biden to resign because of his handling of the situation. Six months after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden continues to suffer from low approval ratings on the issue of foreign policy. 

According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls taken since the beginning of 2022, the president has a net disapproval rating of 16% on foreign policy, slightly lower than his overall net disapproval rating of 13%. The withdrawal from Afghanistan marked the time when Biden’s approval ratings first began to go underwater after remaining consistently positive throughout the first seven months of his presidency. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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