Give Josh Rogin credit for reading the media room, so to speak. Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies left behind Taliban lines might quickly become a statistic for national news outlets rather than thousands of individual outrageous betrayals.
A hundred or so government journalists abandoned despite Biden administration promises to get them out? That might be different, or so Rogin hopes in his Washington Post column:
Now that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete, many stories of heroic efforts to save Americans and Afghan allies are pouring out, each describing one facet of the chaos and dysfunction that plagued the effort to evacuate all of those in Kabul who had placed their trust in the United States. Among the most tragic examples is the story of how the Biden administration left behind more than 100 government-sponsored journalists, plus their families, after putting them through three weeks of hell.
The administration was warned early and often about the 600 or so employees, contractors and family members who worked for U.S.-sponsored news organizations under the umbrella of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a federal agency funded by Congress. They include journalists working for the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio LIberty (RFE/RL) who have worked in Afghanistan for years — at great personal risk. The Taliban has killed four RFE/RL journalists since 2016 through suicide bomb attacks, and the company’s journalists routinely receive death threats from the extremists.
Now, the leaders of these organizations say the State Department promised to get their vulnerable people out of the country before the Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline, only to later renege on that promise amid the chaos and confusion at the Kabul airport.
Not only did they renege on the pledge, the Biden administration flat-out lied about it, too:
On Sunday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN that all the groups the U.S. government prioritized for departure made it to the planes. But that’s simply not true, according to other officials and sources I’ve spoken with in the groups that scrambled to save their staffers over the last three weeks. Those organizations include the American University of Afghanistan, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Humane Society and several other civil society organizations that are now facing the worst-case scenario for their people. …
In the final days before the Aug. 31 deadline, the State Department told USAGM their people would be included among the last tranche of locally employed U.S. government staff, who had been given special priority at that time, Fly said. But as the deadline came and went, the USAGM employees simply never got the call to come to the airport.
Why not? As Rogin repeatedly points out, these employees of the United States served at the tip of the cultural spear in Afghanistan for two decades. They’re not just at risk, they’re well known to boot, which makes them especially high-value targets for the Taliban. There’s no better way to impress upon their subjects that times have changed than to kill the people who brought them more information and more choices — and to kill them in a very public and gruesome manner, pour encourager les autres.
Having failed to get them out in the chaotic shambles of an exit Biden engineered, now the US has to rely on the Taliban’s generosity to get them out. We can certainly hope that works, but … I wouldn’t bet my life on it. And to that point, we should demand why Biden and his team bet the lives of these journalists on that proposition rather than plan an orderly withdrawal that put civilians ahead of the military in the first place.
The media coverage of this utter disgrace and moral stain has been surprisingly straightforward. The plight of fellow journalists might keep that focus in place for a while, reminding us that each and every abandoned American and ally is a moral disaster that rests squarely on the narrow, rounded shoulders of Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. And we should tell each story as a human tragedy of betrayal until each and every American — citizen and legal permanent resident — and every staffer, every ally gets out of Afghanistan alive.
Let’s not forget the two dozen children that didn’t get out, either:
At least 24 Sacramento-area students are confirmed to be stranded in Afghanistan as turmoil continues in Kabul, according to school officials.
San Juan Unified school district staff said 24 students, down from from the initial estimate of 150 students, had not returned to campuses since the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
After reading The Sacramento Bee’s story about two students stranded overseas, staffers at Sacramento Congressman Ami Bera’s office contacted San Juan Unified and are working with the district to bring students back safely.