California students and parents stranded in Afghanistan - how did that happen?

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is helping a group of California students and their parents stranded in Afghanistan. About 24 students and 16 adults are desperate to leave as the window of opportunity to get them out quickly closes. What began as a summer trip to visit Afghan relatives before the United States military leaves the country has turned into a test of basic survival.

Why are Americans taking a summer trip to Afghanistan in the first place? That’s the first thought of anyone looking at the story. The reason given is that they are all Afghanistan refugees themselves and they wanted to go back, likely for the last time, to see family members and friends still there. They knew that with Biden’s plans for withdrawal from the country, they may never see those family members again.

The Taliban overran the country and seized control of the Kabul airport so quickly that even though they have plane tickets to return to the United States, they cannot get to the airport. They are in hiding until they find a way to leave. They have reached out to Issa’s office and he and his staff are working to get them back to California. That is where we are in this disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan – elected officials are organizing rescues and helping evacuate Americans who are reaching out to them. This is particularly difficult now, as the time gets closer to Biden’s arbitrary deadline date. The Taliban is fully in charge and American troops are no longer fully in control of who gets through the gates at the airport. Biden’s wishy-washy last-minute hesitation to hold fast to the August 31 deadline allowed the Taliban leaders the opportunity to deny that possibility. The weakness of the Biden administration being projected to the world is shocking. The Californians are among those who are stranded now, though the Biden administration continues to deny anyone is stranded.

The students and their parents traveled to Afghanistan to visit extended family, said Howard Shen, the Cajon Valley Union School District Family and Community Engagement media contact, in a statement.

“Congressman Issa and staff are aware of the location of several American citizens, and we have been in direct and consistent contact with them,” Jonathan Wilcox, Issa’s communications director, told the Washington Examiner.

The situation is fluid, but Issa has spoken with the stranded Americans through voice contact, he said.

“They are scared, stranded, and trapped in the Kabul area,” he said. “I know the president and his press secretary have said this isn’t happening, but that’s dead wrong.”

It sounds as though the group, unfortunately, believed Biden when he announced the complete withdrawal from Afghanistan while offering assurances that the Taliban would not take over the country, certainly not as quickly as they did. So, they made the trip. On August 16, as the chaos was beginning, the parents reached out to community liaisons in the school district, notifying them to hold the students’ spots in classes. They explained their circumstances, that they are stranded in Afghanistan.

“The Cajon Valley Union School District Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Office that supports a global community of families has been in direct contact with their families and students stranded in Afghanistan,” Howard Shen, a spokesperson for the Cajon Valley Union School District, told Fox News in a statement.

Cajon Valley School Board President Tamara Otero told the Times that the students and parents had already booked their plane tickets but could not “get to the airport.”

Superintendent David Miyashiro notified the school board on Tuesday of the district’s efforts to help students and families with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the Times reported. Miyashiro told the outlet that the students and parents were traveling with special U.S. military visas.

Shen added that “students and their parents who traveled to Afghanistan this summer to visit their extended family reached out to their community liaisons for assistance when the crisis in Afghanistan started” in an effort to “hold their children’s spots in classrooms.” The district has 16 community liaisons in total.

“Mike Serban, Director of the FACE Office, began gathering a comprehensive list of all Cajon Valley Students known to be in Afghanistan,” he continued. “They have been working with Congressman Issa’s office, who have been incredibly supportive in the attempt to bring these families home. The East County San Diego community and district staff continue to send positive thoughts and well wishes to all of our families as we await their safe return.”

The area in California where they live is reported to have a large refugee community. These are all Afghan refugee families.

One of the phrases used by Biden and his administration is that Americans who “choose” to leave will be evacuated. They make it sound as though some Americans are deliberately choosing to remain in Afghanistan as the Taliban comes back into control. It is mostly to cover their own asses as we all now know that Americans and Afghan helpers promised a ticket out of the country will very likely be left behind. Also, there are some Americans who are refusing to leave right now, as a thread on Twitter, last night explained. Washington Post military reporter Dan Lamothe tweeted that he heard a leaked recording between congressional staffers and the Biden administration which brought the dilemma into perspective.

Some Americans don’t want to leave their families behind, which is understandable. Dana Perino pointed out this morning on FNC that there is a policy, not a law, that when Americans and foreign helpers try to flee from a country, they are allowed to bring a spouse and their children but not their parents or other extended family members. You can understand an adult son or daughter not wanting to leave parents behind to most probably be killed by the Taliban because of their ties to Americans. If Joe Biden was a competent Commander-in-Chief willing to put in the effort to safely evacuate Americans from Afghanistan, he would have begun this process months ago and prioritized Americans and then Afghan helpers. Instead, he allowed the Taliban to quickly take over the country, and even Americans in Kabul and the immediate area are not able to safely get to the airport, much less on a plane out of the country.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022