Exfil volunteers: State Dept "actively impeding" Afghan evacuation operations

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Has the State Department moved from malign neglect of Americans and Afghan allies abandoned to the Taliban to a more actively malign position? Volunteers working overtime to do what the Biden administration apparently won’t tell National Review that Foggy Bottom has begun “actively impeding their exfiltration efforts. And thanks to a national media industry that has actively averted their eyes from Joe Biden’s disgraceful abandonment, State and the White House are getting away with it (via Andrew Malcolm):

Stern has focused his most recent efforts on rescuing American citizens and green-card holders, people who can fly commercially to the United States. But efforts by dozens of private rescue groups who have focused their energy on saving other American allies in the 20-year war — people who typically don’t have the paperwork for a direct path into the U.S. — have slowed to a crawl.

Leaders of some of those groups who spoke to National Review are pointing fingers at the U.S. Department of State. They say the State Department is doing little to help them rescue American allies, and in some cases it is actively blocking their efforts. They’re calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to do more to help them save the people they once served with.

At the same time, as the Afghanistan rescue efforts have fallen off the newspaper front pages and nightly news broadcasts, fundraising has been increasingly difficult. Because many groups haven’t been able to get flights out for weeks or months, they’ve struggled to keep up with their bills to keep prospective evacuees fed and sheltered in safehouses. Some group leaders say they’re draining their own bank accounts to keep their efforts afloat.

“It’s really demoralizing on the one hand, and it’s infuriating on the other,” said Jesse Jensen, a former Army Ranger, co-founder of the civilian rescue group Task Force Argo, and a Republican congressional candidate in Washington.

“We’ve made a promise to some of these people that we were going to get them out. If you serve with the American government, we will extricate you, we will provide you with an immigrant visa that you will be able to come to the United States and live. And we’re not honoring that.”

Most of this is behind NRO’s paywall, but Ryan Mills goes into great depth in reporting on this ongoing catastrophe. While exfil volunteers work to get flights together to evacuate high-risk Afghans, the State Department “has constantly changed the standards and process to move evacuees out of Afghanistan.” They have bigfooted arrangements made with friendly countries to get temporary shelter for these refugees, and as a result it has been weeks since one group has managed a flight out of Afghanistan to anywhere.

This NRO report mainly focuses on Afghans who worked with the US, including those who fought the Taliban on our behalf. Time has already begun running out for them, as AFP reported yesterday:

A crowd of women marched through the Afghan capital on Tuesday, accusing Taliban authorities of covertly killing soldiers who served the former US-backed regime.

Around 30 women gathered near a mosque in the centre of Kabul and marched a few hundred metres chanting “justice, justice” before they were stopped by Taliban forces, an AFP correspondent saw.

The Taliban also tried to prevent journalists from covering the march, organised against the “mysterious murders of young people, particularly the country’s former soldiers”, according to social media invitations.

Taliban fighters briefly detained a group of reporters and confiscated equipment from some photographers, deleting images from their cameras before returning them.

Mills does bring up the plight of Americans still behind Taliban lines, and notes that the State Department is still playing games with the numbers. According to reports made to Congress, the total number of Americans abandoned by Biden in his catastrophic retreat — both citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) — was over 14,000. Two weeks ago, the total number of those successfully exfiltrated was under one thousand. How many more Americans need to get out?

As Mills reports, State is still playing games with the answer. “The State Department says fewer than a dozen U.S. citizens remain in the country who wish to leave,” is the answer Mills got to that question. State is still ignoring the thousands of LPRs in that response, not to mention evading the point that the “wish to leave” is impacted by State’s indifference to non-citizen family members that they would have to leave behind.

State has largely gotten away with this cruel sophistry thanks to the indifference of national media. The subject didn’t even come up in yesterday’s State press briefing, but at least one reporter got some specifics at the previous briefing a week earlier:

QUESTION: Staying on Afghanistan, the Secretary is set to meet with some Afghan refugees today. I’m just curious, what is the status of the department’s efforts to help the tens of thousands of SIV principal applicants and their families that are remaining in the country, particularly as the humanitarian situation deteriorates? I know we now have a protecting power in the country. I mean, is that – is that accelerating efforts to bring people out?

MR PRICE: Well, as you know, our efforts to relocate not only American citizens and lawful permanent residents, but also Afghans at risk, have been ongoing. We made very clear when the military mission came to an end at the end of August that our commitment to these groups would be enduring, and I think it should be clear that we have made good on that commitment. We have, as you know, since August 31st, directly assisted the departure of 479 U.S. citizens and 450 lawful permanent residents. There are now fewer than a dozen Americans in Afghanistan with whom we’re in contact who are prepared and ready to depart. There are about 150 additional Americans with whom we’re in contact who are not, for one reason or another, prepared to depart.

We have continued as well to do what we can to support Afghans to whom we have a special commitment, and that includes those who fall within the category of the SIVs. We are undertaking efforts to relocate those with visa foils in their passport. We also from there are prioritizing those with foil-less visas. We are looking at alternatives to processing for the larger cohort within this category knowing that, even though our presence on the ground in Afghanistan is no more, we are doing what we can from other posts and looking at creative solutions to continue our efforts to safely relocate those individuals who wish to depart the country.

We issued a pretty comprehensive update on our relocation efforts – I believe it was early last week. We made the point and we have made the point that, in addition to the Americans, to the lawful permanent residents, our efforts have facilitated the departure of a couple thousand additional individuals from Afghanistan. And again, that is not a mission that has any expiration date attached to it. We made that point in August, we made that point in September, and now that we’re in December and approaching 2022, I think that point is – we have made very clear.

Adding up 479 and 450 gets us to 929, which means that not much changed from the previous assessment. It also means that 13,000 or so remain in Afghanistan, and at this rate it will take close to five years to get them out. That may be one definition of an “enduring” commitment, but it’s not one that will bring comfort to those abandoned Americans and their families. And notice how few if any media outlets reported that information even after the State press corps gave them the opportunity to do so.

More media attention would force some long-overdue accountability for that abandonment and indifference on the White House and State Department. Four months afterward, the only possible conclusion one can reach over the lack of coverage of this dishonorable disgrace is that the national media isn’t interested in speaking truth to power or banishing darkness from democracy. They’re interested in promoting narratives and protecting their political allies, and with some exceptions nothing more. We may never know how many people actually “died in darkness” from this neglect; you can bet that the media won’t report it even if the number can be ascertained.

As a palate cleanser, here’s an amusing example of this phenomenon.