As the U.S. nears the two-month mark since the catastrophic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, there remains several dozen American schoolchildren and some family members who are trapped in the war-torn country that is now under the brutal control of the Taliban.
On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reported that roughly 41 children from the San Juan Unified School District were trapped behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. The children and family members had gone to Afghanistan on special visas for military service and had been visiting over summer break.
Initially, school district officials said only a few dozen were still in Afghanistan, and eight students were trapped. Then, last week, San Juan Unified School District officials identified the 41 students as still being in Afghanistan. Of those 41, the district says that three have been evacuated but are still overseas.
It was also initially thought that just one family remained but attendance records have shown more students are missing and have been traced to those remaining in Afghanistan.
The situation is a bit more dire for students from the Cajon Valley Union School District. The number of American students and those with Special Immigrant Visas (SIV’s) could be as high as 1,000.
At the beginning of September, the Los Angeles Times reported that 24 students and 16 parents from the district were also trapped. The Sacramento City Unified School District also has three students stranded.
There are reports that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is attempting to help assist in getting the American students, their families, and others out of Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times reports that Issa and district officials are, “trying to remind the White House, DHS, and State Department daily that there are children trapped behind enemy lines and under threat from the Taliban.”
Issa says that while a few have been rescued, there is more work to do. He said, “Yes, there has been some success, and we’re delighted to have these kids back in school and their parents, united.”
He continued, “But we also know that there’s a lot more work to do and that working through official channels and with foreign countries and with unofficial channels is going to take a lot of work.”
Issa added that he believes there are still possibly “thousands” or “tens of thousands” of American citizens and special visa holders still “languishing in Afghanistan” or “neighboring countries waiting to come” home to America.
The Biden State Department is tight lipped about how hard they are trying to get stranded Americans out of Afghanistan. Officials say they have “repatriated” roughly 105 U.S. citizens and 95 lawful permanent residents.
The State Department also said”
These are the numbers of people whose individual departures we directly facilitated, due to privacy considerations, we are unable to comment on specific cases. We are first focusing on U.S. citizens with immediate family members who are ready to depart and have travel documents. We will then more intensively focus on the subset of U.S. citizens with immediate family members for whom documentation has been an issue, to find ways to assist them.”
President Biden has hailed the disaster in Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of 13 American service members an “extraordinary success.”
He maintains that the government attempted to contact Americans who have ultimately been stranded 19 times in order to help them leave, and says, “We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”
Travel out of Afghanistan became all but impossible as the Kabul airport came under Taliban control. But Joe Biden has made the implication that if Americans are stranded in Afghanistan, it is because of their own decisions.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the school districts are working with “Congressional representatives,” but makes no mention if the Biden administration is also assisting.
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