Is this the new line from the Biden administration — that Americans somehow got themselves stranded in Afghanistan? At least John Kirby acknowledged that they’re stranded at all. A week ago, Jen Psaki scolded the press for using the term in relation to Americans in Afghanistan that couldn’t make their way into the airport in Kabul.
Americans might “get stranded in countries” from time to time on their own volition, but … is that the case in Afghanistan? Not at all:
Pentagon Spokesman, today: “We have Americans that get stranded in countries all the time”
Jen Psaki, August 23: "I think it's irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not." pic.twitter.com/syyDJT9P6N
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 31, 2021
Most of the Americans in Afghanistan went to that country to support the US mission, either as contractors to the military or through NGOs in helping Afghans to stand up on their own. Those who came to Afghanistan for purely commercial reasons were likely the first to split. The rest almost certainly relied on assurances from Joe Biden himself that the Taliban wouldn’t come to power, and certainly not in a rush or collapse. Biden emphasized that point a month before the collapse, in fact.
These Americans didn’t get themselves stranded. They were abandoned by their own government in Biden’s haste to get out of Afghanistan. They were nothing more than an afterthought in the process, and only at the end did Biden re-insert troops to Hamid Karzai International Airport to secure an egress route. However, the Pentagon and Biden declined to secure the routes to the airport, leaving Americans to slog their way to the gates without getting beaten or killed.
To Kirby’s argument, we usually have somewhat normal relations with governments in the countries where Americans get stranded. We have no such diplomatic options with the Taliban, who have yet to be recognized as the legitimate authority in Afghanistan. The only way to get them out is to pay ransoms, and even that might not be terribly effective.
Matt Lewis scoffs at the Biden administration’s spin on abandoning fellow citizens, as well as this from Kirby on the scope of the problem:
KIRBY: The number of Americans left behind in Afghanistan is in the “low hundreds.” pic.twitter.com/f0cWBRzPFy
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) August 31, 2021
How did the administration come by that estimate? Lewis sounds skeptical, for good reason:
But here’s where the plot really thickens. A couple of weeks ago, the Biden administration was saying there were 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan. As recently as last week, The Washington Post was citing that number. Then, all of a sudden, the Biden administration began saying that there were just 6,000 U.S. citizens (“who wanted to leave”) as of August 14. After accounting for the current evacuations, that meant there would be just a few hundred Americans left in Afghanistan.
Not everyone is buying it, though. Michael Pregent, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute (a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.) and a former intelligence officer, disputes the administration’s numbers. “Thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan that want to leave,” he tweeted. “This ‘hundreds left’ is political math. We shouldn’t leave 1 behind, but lying about the numbers abandons hope for thousands of Americans trying to get out.” I asked Pregent what he meant by political math, and he told me that anyone left behind will be put in the “chose to stay” category.
If he’s right, this would be a huge scandal. A simpler and less sinister explanation is that this boils down to gross incompetence on the part of the Biden administration. There is a huge gap between 15,000 and 6,000. But even if we assume that the administration is now shooting straight with us, their estimation was so far off that their competence should be questioned, as well as the veracity of their new data. Regardless, the administration has invited suspicion with their initial estimate.
By the way, It’s not just humans that got stranded. Turns out that the military’s service dogs didn’t make it to the airport either, and the American Humane is none too happy at seeing them abandoned:
An animal rights group has slammed the Biden administration after the US military allegedly left its contract dogs behind in Afghanistan before pulling out of Kabul.
“I am devastated by reports that the American government is pulling out of Kabul and leaving behind brave U.S. military contract working dogs to be tortured and killed at the hand of our enemies,” American Humane President and CEO Robert Ganzert said in a statement.
“These brave dogs do the same dangerous, lifesaving work as our military working dogs, and deserved a far better fate than the one to which they have been condemned,” he wrote.
“This senseless fate is made all the more tragic, as American Humane stands ready to not only help transport these contract K-9 soldiers to U.S. soil but also to provide for their lifetime medical care,” Ganzert continued.
He noted that his organization “has worked hand in hand with the military for more than 100 years to rescue military animals,” adding that the group “brings home retired military working dogs and pairs veterans with life-saving service dogs.”
Maybe the dogs wanted to stay? That’s been the excuse the White House has been peddling for the last few days after it became clear that Joe Biden had no scruples when it came to leaving Americans behind Taliban lines.