The Biden administration is hindering ongoing efforts to evacuate Afghan allies under threat from the Taliban, people running private evacuation efforts say.
President Joe Biden withdrew the military from Afghanistan on a self-imposed timeline by the end of August, leaving behind hundreds of American citizens and legal residents who the administration and volunteer rescue groups have worked for months to locate and evacuate. Potentially hundreds of thousands of Afghan allies and members of their families were also left behind with little real hope that the United States would attempt to evacuate them.
While the State Department has continued to facilitate, albeit slowly, the evacuation of U.S. citizens and legal residents of the United States, officials have effectively stifled efforts by private groups attempting to evacuate Afghans that aided the U.S. military during its two-decade occupation and their families, according to National Review.
Ben Owen, the chief executive of Flanders Fields, an organization originally founded to aid homeless veterans but has pitched in to help evacuation operations in Afghanistan, said that the U.S. government is currently tying up several full flights ready to take off by withholding “no objection certificates.” Without the certificates, countries who host the refugees could be accused of facilitating human smuggling by the United States.
“All these countries are asking for is the U.S. Department of State, through an embassy in their country, to say, ‘Go ahead. We don’t care if you do this. We’re not going to help you do it, but we’re also not going to hinder your effort to do it,’” Owen told National Review. “It’s incredibly frustrating to all of us.”
The State Department is “actively impeding our efforts to find third countries to accept flights of Afghans,” he added.
Rescue operations have continued for months since the last U.S. military flight took off from Kabul at the end of August. The media attention on the lives still at stake in Afghanistan has largely moved on, however. Private rescue groups are beginning to struggle financially as many operators commit their own fortunes to the cause.
“It’s really demoralizing on the one hand, and it’s infuriating on the other,” said former Army ranger Jesse Jensen, who co-founded and operates the civilian rescue group Task Force Argo. Jensen is also a candidate for U.S. Congress in Washington state.
“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,” he told National Review.
Since taking control of the country, the Taliban are believed to have killed numerous Afghanis who cooperated and worked with the U.S. over the past two decades. On Tuesday, about 30 Afghan women led a protest over the Taliban crackdown on U.S. allies. Taliban militants quickly broke up the demonstration and forced journalists watching the event to delete any photos and recordings from their phones.