Those left behind: The government lied to us

AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon, File

It’s only been a few days since the final plane of the bugout lifted off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, but more and more stories of those we left behind are emerging. The Associated Press highlights a few of them today, finding that many of these American citizens, contrary to what the State Department keeps telling us, are both frightened and angry. They are frightened because they know the Taliban could come knocking on the door at any time. But they are mostly angry because they claim that the United States government lied to them. In some cases, the lies were told repeatedly. The abandoned people first want a safe way to escape the country, but if they manage that feat, they next want answers. Their coverage begins with the story of Javed Habibi, a green card holder from Richmond Virginia who got caught up, along with his entire family, while visiting relatives in Kabul during August.

Even in the final days of Washington’s chaotic airlift in Afghanistan, Javed Habibi was getting phone calls from the U.S. government promising that the green card holder from Richmond, Virginia, his wife and their four daughters would not be left behind.

He was told to stay home and not worry, that they would be evacuated.

Late Monday, however, his heart sank as he heard that the final U.S. flights had left Kabul’s airport, followed by the blistering staccato sound of Taliban gunfire, celebrating what they saw as their victory over America.

“They lied to us,” Habibi said of the U.S. government. He is among hundreds of American citizens and green card holders stranded in the Afghan capital.

“They lied to us” seems to be a recurring theme among the stranded people who were interviewed via phone or email. The State Department spokeswoman they sent out to take questions yesterday said that they “would not be addressing individual cases.” She went on to say that all of the citizens and green card holders left in the country have been contacted. Another spox said that all of them would be receiving “personalized instructions on what they should do, when they should do it, and how the United States government feels we are best positioned to help them do that.”

One gets the impression that these stranded people aren’t really buying the company line at this point. And given the way that Ned Price was picking and choosing his words, it’s fairly obvious that there still is no plan in place to get these people either onto a plane or over an overland border.

As for Javed Habibi, he describes making five attempts to get through the crush of human bodies and reach the gate that the State Department directed him to use at the airport. His youngest daughter is only two, and they were nearly crushed and trampled in the panicking crowd. He tells of waving his green card and travel documents at the soldiers manning the gates, but they ignored him. “What does this green card even mean? Nothing. They did nothing,” he said.

Another man going only by the name of Ajmal (to avoid persecution by the Taliban) has an email he was sent telling him and his family to go to a particular location in Kabul at three o’clock in the morning. They were told that a car would pick them up and take them safely inside of the airport through a secure gate. They stood there for nine hours but no car ever came and nobody called them.

If they can’t gain access to a plane, the closest land border to Kabul leads into Pakistan. But that trip used to be perilous even if you had several Humvees full of Marines. How these people are supposed to get there is a mystery. One suggestion that was being made last night was that some of these citizens might try going to the Russian embassy. Our embassy is empty and closed, but the Russians are still there conducting normal operations. And wouldn’t Moscow consider the opportunity to gloat if they had to rescue some Americans that were left behind? It’s an unpleasant prospect for our government, but desperate times call for desperate measures.