We have "weeks" to get our Afghan interpreters out of the country

(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Current estimates indicate that the United States and our allies are on schedule to pull the rest of our troops out of Afghanistan by the first week of July. That would finish the evacuation well ahead of President Joe Biden’s previously declared deadline of September 11th. (This is likely yet another example of Biden’s habit of “underpromising and overdelivering” and then moving the goalposts as he did with vaccination goals.) The one looming crisis that still hasn’t seemed to garner the attention of the White House to any significant degree is the fate of an estimated 18,000 interpreters and other natives who have assisted the United States and other NATO forces for decades. This week, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, created an awkward conflict between the military and Biden’s White House when he spoke out on the subject. The General notes that we are running out of time and he could get all of those people out of the country if ordered to do so, but it’s not up to him. (Fox News)

Gen. Mark Milley says US is ready to evacuate the interpreters but the decision is not up to him; Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson on ‘Special Report’

As U.S. forces continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan, Taliban fighters have taken over dozens of abandoned bases in recent days – raising questions about the fate of 18,000 Afghan interpreters – who risked their lives to work with the U.S. government.

The U.S. military’s top officer told Fox News the American military is ready to evacuate them, but it’s not up to him.

Milley was being rather blunt when he told Fox News that plans were being developed “very, very rapidly” to get all of these helpers out of the country before we finish pulling out. He went on to say, “We have a moral commitment to those that helped us.”

This clearly caught the White House off guard. In short order, A National Security Council spokesman was quickly rushed out to speak to reporters, saying “I can tell you we have no plans for evacuations at this time.” They went on to talk about how the State Department is processing special immigration visas in Kabul as rapidly as possible. Somebody must have had a word with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs because one of Milley’s spokesmen was then sent out to “clarify” the General’s remarks.

“The physical evacuation of Afghans is one option of many being considered and it is not necessarily the primary option to safeguard Afghans at risk,” said Army Col. David Butler. “An evacuation is not imminent.”

There really isn’t any contradiction between the two sets of statements. Milley never said an evacuation was imminent. He simply claimed that he was working on plans to get the job done but he hadn’t been given the order to proceed with them. It’s a fair bet that he went public with his statements to put pressure on Joe Biden to give the order. That plan seems to have backfired, based on the White House response.

So what is Biden thinking at this point? He can talk about processing special visa applications in Kabul until he’s blue in the face, but those visas usually take years to process. And not all of our Afghani helpers who are scattered around the country can make it to Kabul on short notice to even make the attempt. James Miervaldis, an Afghanistan war Army veteran who chairs No One Left Behind estimates that we have two or three weeks at most to start getting those people out of the country or there just won’t be the manpower and resources left to do it later.

Republican congressman Mike Waltz of Florida (a Green Beret who served multiple tours in Afghanistan) said he’s being contacted by people who are reaching out for help every day. The Taliban has already overrun several of our bases that we’ve cleared out and they are actively hunting down our interpreters and other helpers right now. Many of us have been predicting this for years and nobody should have failed to see it coming. The Taliban have no honor and they will not stick to any negotiated agreements they’ve made in the past. When the allied troops are gone there is going to be a massacre in Afghanistan and the life expectancy of the government we helped set up will be measured in months, if not weeks or days.

If it’s simply impossible to get all of the helpers out of the country, that’s one thing. “Bad things happen in war,” as my father always used to tell me. But if Milley is confident that he could pull off the evacuation, even if those people can’t be brought directly to the United States, we owe it to them to at least try. And if it’s not, the fault for this impending disaster rests on the shoulders of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Trump announced long ago that he intended to pull our troops out and Biden continued with those plans. Neither administration began the hard work of preparing to get our interpreters out of there before they are slaughtered and now it may be too late to do anything about it. If it happens, it will be yet another dark stain on our military history. The same thing happened when we pulled out of Iraq and we apparently didn’t learn our lesson then.