Congressmen back from Kabul: Even if we extend the withdrawal deadline, there's no way we'll get everyone out

Congressmen back from Kabul: Even if we extend the withdrawal deadline, there's no way we'll get everyone out
Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/U.S. Marine Corps via AP

A grim conclusion from Democrat Seth Moulton and Republican Peter Meijer, the two veterans turned members of Congress whom Jazz wrote about earlier. They put out a joint statement last night defending their decision to fly to Kabul to observe the evacuation at the airport.

Their takeaway: All the chattering back home about extending the deadline is ignoring a hard reality. Even if the Taliban gave us 10 more days, some people will still be abandoned behind enemy lines. There are too many people left. Biden blew it.

The world will note that if you’re a native who aids the United States in a military mission in your country, this is what’s waiting for you as your reward:

Moulton and Meijer are only saying out loud what others are whispering behind closed doors. “Defense officials have been loath to say publicly, though, what seems increasingly clear: Some people will be left behind,” the Times reported this morning. “There is no way with the numbers of people on the ground that we will be able to get everybody out by Aug. 31,” a combat veteran working on the relief effort confirmed to the WSJ. It’s not just Afghans and possibly Americans who’ll be stranded either. G7 leaders had pleaded with Biden not to withdraw since the American troop presence at the airport is the only thing making the evacuation of their own nationals possible. “No country would be able to evacuate all their citizens and at-risk Afghan allies by the Aug. 31 deadline, allied officials had said,” per the AP. They needed more time. They’re not going to get it.

Oh well.

Hair-raising stories are piling up in newspapers and on social media about refugees who have somehow successfully run the gauntlet and made it to the airport gate, at great personal risk, only to be turned away:

“Aid organizations have been told by Western governments that evacuation flights won’t continue past Friday, as the U.S. military will need the days remaining until the Aug. 31 deadline to remove its own equipment and troops from Kabul,” the Journal is reporting. For reasons that are unclear to me, U.S. troops are now blocking entry to the airport even for Afghans who have seats reserved on charter flights out of Kabul. One Washington nonprofit lined up three chartered planes to take 1,000 or so Afghans to Uganda but Marines wouldn’t let them inside the gate. Another chartered plane headed for Ukraine also took off largely empty when Afghans with tickets were turned away at the airport.

All I can think is that the threat of a terror attack inside the wire is now so great that U.S. troops can’t let anyone pass who hasn’t been vetted. And in some cases, because just reaching the airport and making it through the gate is so arduous, some Afghans are arriving on the tarmac to find that their flight has already left.

The process is slow and difficult too if you’re one of the lucky few to make it out of Afghanistan, which is creating bottlenecks in the evacuation traffic jam. “A U.S. official said it was taking as long as 12 hours for immigration officers at Al Udeid Air Base outside Doha, Qatar, to check arriving Afghans against the National Counterterrorism Center’s watch list,” says the Times. “The official said that vetting and screening processes needed to move faster to prevent the evacuee pipeline from clogging up again at Al Udeid, the largest base receiving Afghans, as it did for several hours last week.” DHS is trying to speed things up by using its “parole” power to let some Afghans into the U.S. (pending a security check) while they wait for their refugee applications to be processed.

If the WSJ is right that Friday is the true deadline for evacuating Afghans, we’re left to wonder what the scene at the airport will look like between Saturday and Tuesday, once it dawns on the people waiting outside that all hope of getting out is lost.

Who’s going to hold back those crowds while the military evacuates?

The United States will continue to evacuate Afghans until the last couple of days of its drawdown of troops and equipment, when flights are expected to be filled mostly with military troops and equipment, as well as any Americans desiring to leave. Dozens of Afghan commandos — trained by the United States — are also at the airport and must be evacuated…

The military is treating the Taliban’s red line on Aug. 31 seriously in part because, despite tough talk from Taliban spokesmen, some of the group’s commanders have been cooperating with the U.S. military and allowing many people to get to the airport. In addition, the American military and the Taliban have cooperated against the threat of attacks from the Islamic State.

But after Aug. 31, all bets are off, a senior U.S. official said.

The key phrase from the Moulton/Meijer statement is “getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban.” What no one is saying yet but seems increasingly obvious is that the U.S. is hoping that flights into Kabul will continue after August 31 and the Taliban itself will make sure that Americans stranded in the country reach the airport and depart. That’s the ransom phase of this clusterf**k. Obviously there’ll be a price for jihadis’ cooperation but only the feds know what it is for the moment.

Here’s NBC reporter Richard Engel with our understatement of the day.

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