Any withdrawal is going to be difficult. There is an unthinkable number of loose ends and personnel to take care of. No one should have expected a nice and clean departure from Afghanistan.
But the tragic chaos of the American withdrawal in August was astounding. The disorder was so complete that the government continues to deal with problems, especially now that it is clear that hundreds of Americans are still in Afghanistan and want out.
On Thursday, CNN reported that the State Department had informed congressional staff that it is in contact with 363 U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan and that 176 of them want to leave the country. The number of Americans still there is significantly more than was originally estimated.
“We believe there are still a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. We’re trying to determine exactly how many,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Aug. 30, according to CBS News.
The fact that they were still trying to determine the numbers as the withdrawal was in motion should be considered catastrophic.
There is no doubt that it has been extraordinarily difficult to find all Americans in Afghanistan. It was never going to be easy to get every American out, especially since many there have been longtime residents or even dual citizens. But if the withdrawal had been painstakingly planned, instead of treated almost like a whim, this might not be happening.
Now that there are more definite numbers, there should be massive, laser-focused efforts on getting those 176 Americans out.
That was Biden’s promise, after all.
Should the U.S. have pulled out of Afghanistan?
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” he told ABC News on Aug. 18.
The president has unequivocally broken his promise, despite his later, Aug. 31 statement, “For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline.”
Biden seemed to have high hopes of being the president to finally pull troops out of Afghanistan. Maybe a move like that would brand him as a peacemaker.
The wreckage that ensued, however, has only tarnished Biden’s already lackluster administration. He kept pitching optimism in his statement, but his promises seem more and more unlikely.
“We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure a safe passage for any American, Afghan partner or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan,” he said.
Diplomatic efforts? Surely that will work since the Taliban are very well known for their diplomatic finesse and ease.
For everyone, things are getting worse on the ground in Afghanistan. Women tried protesting in Kabul on Thursday, signifying that they would rather put themselves in danger than be under the Taliban.
“This time, women prefer to die than live like slaves or prisoners,” a local woman told Radio Azadi.
“Because they can’t see their family suffering, so the only option is to take action even if that means the Taliban eliminates them,” another journalist at the protest said.
Yet in the midst of this open oppression, Biden failed to get hundreds of Americans out.
Bottom line, though: It is utterly unacceptable that there are 176 Americans still in Afghanistan who don’t want to be there. All eyes, focus and efforts need to be focused on the 176.