U.S. military has left Afghanistan; evacuation of Americans, Afghans moves into next phase
Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for leaving hundreds of Americans in the country
WASHINGTON — Even as the last military planes left Kabul, members of Congress were still trying to facilitate the evacuations of more Americans and Afghans.
Reps. Jason Crow (D-Co.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) are leading efforts to supply names and contacts of Afghans who helped the U.S. in the last 20 years to the State Department to quickly process evacuations.
“We must protect our people and our friends by continuing evacuations from Kabul airport until the job is done,” Crow wrote on Twitter, adding that “the situation in Kabul is still life or death for American citizens and our Afghan partners.”
The U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan late Monday afternoon, ending a 20-year occupation, according to U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth Franklin McKenzie Jr.
Every service member is out of Afghanistan, but Republicans have criticized the administration for leaving hundreds of Americans in the country. Sen. Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter that “Biden’s failure here is staggering,” and stressed that “the U.S. has now stranded hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan after giving their names to known terrorists.”
“We cannot rest until all Americans come home,” he said.
The administration has stated that it has the capacity to evacuate the nearly 300 Americans still in Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press.
According to the Department of Defense, more than 123,000 people, including 5,400 Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan amid the collapse of the government and violent takeover by the Taliban.
In the last several weeks, Kim’s office has sent about 6,000 names over to the State Department to try and facilitate evacuations, a senior staffer with Kim said.
More than 18,000 Afghans who have worked as interpreters, drivers, security guards and fixers for the U.S. have been stuck in limbo, facing threats to their lives and those of their families, as they await answers on their visa applications.
Crow, a former Army Ranger who served two tours in Afghanistan, has also set up an evacuation resources page for those currently at risk in Afghanistan. He also urged President Joe Biden in a letter to “evacuate all who are eligible at the Kabul airport” and to coordinate those evacuations with non-governmental organizations.
“America has a moral obligation to ensure the safe, secure, and humane passage to a new home, and to welcome these friends and partners with open arms,” according to the letter.
Other members of Congress also have criticized the president for the administration’s evacuation plans for Americans and Afghans.
“Although it is clear to me that we could not continue to put American service members in danger for an unwinnable war, I also believe that the evacuation process appears to have been egregiously mishandled,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-Penn.) wrote on Twitter.
A rocket attack at Kabul airport last week left more than 170 people dead, including 13 military personnel. The ISIS-K group claimed credit for the attack.
During evacuations for the past several weeks, thousands of Afghans have arrived in Maryland and at the Fort Lee military base in Virginia.
“I had a chance to visit with Afghans, some through interpreters, and some directly because they are English speakers who served side by side with Americans for years trying to help us,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), said during a press conference Monday. “What they need is a chance to be together and to heal and to think about their next life in this country.”
Kaine added that he expects the evacuations that will continue after August to be more diplomatic and handled by the State Department rather than the military.