Biden Admin Admits Over 100 Americans Still Left Behind in Afghanistan

americans stuck in afghanistan
U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Republicans have the House, which means all those investigations promised during the midterms are kicking off in full swing. The hearings I’ve been the most interested in as a veteran of the last Forever War are the ones related to the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Like many veterans in our generation, my husband and I dedicated years of our lives to the war in Afghanistan, lost friends in Afghanistan, and left pieces of ourselves physically and mentally in Afghanistan. So when the House Foreign Affairs Committee kicked off its Afghanistan hearing, I was all ears.

As President Joe Biden and his inept administration inch us ever closer to the next Forever War, let’s remember that we still have unanswered questions from the last U.S. foreign engagement failure. So what have we learned so far from this hearing?

We Left People Behind

Surprise, surprise, we left people behind in Afghanistan. We left behind detained Americans, American citizens, and of course, our Afghan allies…because partnerships only go so far when the leader of the free world has a political point to make. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated:

“There are several Americans who are being detained by the Taliban. We are working to secure their freedom.”

If they aren’t part of some minority group or a celebrity, I think it’s safe to say they shouldn’t hold their breath on the whole freedom thing.

Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina wanted to know more, though. He pressed Secretary Blinken to say how many other Americans, so the ones not being detained, are stuck in Afghanistan.

“As we speak, American citizens who identified themselves to us who are in Afghanistan – some of whom have been there since the withdrawal, some of whom went back to Afghanistan – there are about, that we’re in contact with, about 175.”

Of the 175, there are 44 who are, as the Secretary put it, “ready to leave.” We should feel confident that the Department of State will get them home as they are, “working to effectuate their departure.”

I don’t know about you, but for some reason, I doubt the efficacy of the Department of State and its motivation level when it comes to bringing those Americans home.

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Protected Communication

While it’s disgusting enough that we left behind Americans after the Biden administration repeatedly promised that no one would be left behind, the best part of Secretary Blinken’s testimony was his tapdancing around providing a dissent memo to the committee.

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Congressman Michael McCaul gave the Secretary until Monday afternoon to provide a dissent cable sent to the Department by more than a dozen U.S. diplomats in Kabul in mid-July of 2021. 

This cable allegedly urged for specific steps to take effect immediately, including a biometric enrollment program to expedite the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) process or refugee status. Why the need for the rush?

The diplomat’s belief was that once the U.S. began the withdrawal, the Afghanistan government would imminently collapse. However, Secretary Blinken appears unwilling to consent to the committee’s request:

“By our regulations, these cables may only be shared with senior officials in the Department. That’s to protect the integrity of the process, to make sure we don’t have a chilling effect on those who might want to come forward knowing that they will have their identities protected, and that they can do so again without fear or favor.”

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To make sure you are following, essentially, the Department of State ‘protects’ members who submit dissent or elevate concerns they feel are being ignored by members of Congress who are acting on behalf of the American taxpayer. Sound like a whole lot of CYA from Secretary Blinken? 

It should, because it is.

Carrying The Moral Stain

Suppose you only look up one aspect of these hearings. In that case, I recommend you watch the testimony of Marine Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews.

Sgt. Vargas is a 25-year-old sniper who was horrifically wounded during the Abbey Gate attack that cost the lives of 13 Americans.

He explained what it was like immediately post-blast:

“I opened my eyes to Marines dead or unconscious lying around me…My body was overwhelmed from the trauma of the blast. My abdomen had been ripped open, every inch of my exposed body except for my face took ball bearings and shrapnel.”

This young man lost multiple organs and two limbs and has undergone 44 operations since the Abbey Gate attack.

Sgt. Vargas went on to rightly state:

“The 11 Marines, one sailor and one soldier that were murdered that day have not been answered for.”

Indeed. Veterans like Sgt. Vargas, my husband, myself, and many others carry the burden of this moral stain when in reality, it is our nation’s leaders and bureaucrats who should be feeling the weight of that load.

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Why We Need To Remember

America has a short memory for being such a young country relative to its peers. We continue to elect leaders who prop up bureaucrats who continue to engage our young men and women in disastrous, unclear foreign wars that cost the brave more than they should and the elite few nothing. 

In August of 2021, after news of the dissent cable had broke, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said that the cable predicted the fall of the Afghan government on August 31st, adding:

“I think the cable reflects what we said all along, which is nobody had this exactly right in predicting that the government and army of Afghanistan were going to collapse in a matter of days.”

As if we should all accept that our leaders across the departments were so inept and chalk this up to a mulligan, but how many more mulligans does our country have in it? Vietnam, Afghanistan in the 80s, Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan Take 2… and now perhaps Ukraine and Syria?

In addition to the Americans left behind, we also abandoned 78,000 Afghan allies.

Aiden Gunderson, who assisted with the civilian veteran-led Task Force Pineapple evacuations in Afghanistan, told members of Congress:

“We came to the middle of the runway where there were blood saturated, dusty clothing and headscarves smoldered on the ground.”

Take a minute to think about what would terrify you enough that you’d rather risk falling to your death from the wheels of a C-17 than stay on the ground. Most certainly, people should be held responsible for this epic failure, as Congressman McCaul calls it our “most basic duties,”…but I doubt anyone will.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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