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Rescue groups in Afghanistan say the Biden admin estimates of Americans left behind are low

After saying all Americans who wanted to leave could do so, it is unclear how many are left behind and how they will get out.

Updated: September 4, 2021 - 1:47pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Various rescue groups attempting to get remaining Americans out of Afghanistan say that the Biden administration estimate of no more than 200 U.S. citizens left behind is too low and fails to consider permanent legal residents with green cards and family members as well.

Some of these mostly veteran-led groups say they are being regularly contacted by Americans who failed to register with the U.S. Embassy before it closed, according to the Associated Press, and by others who had concerns about leaving their loved ones behind. 

"As for green card holders, they have lived in the U.S. for years, paid taxes, become part of their communities and often have children who are U.S. citizens. Yet the administration says it does not have an estimate on the number of such permanent residents who are in Afghanistan and desperately trying to escape Taliban rule," according to the outlet. 

"The fear is that nobody is looking for them," said Howard Shen of the Cajon Valley Union School District in the San Diego area that is in contact with a family who says they cannot get out.

"They are thousands of miles away under an oppressive regime and we're leaving them behind," he said. "That's not right."

On August 18, in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Biden was asked, "'Cause we've got, like, 10,000 to 15,000 Americans in the country right now, right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?" Biden answered, "Yes." 

When pressed by Stephanopoulos, "So Americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond August 31st?," Biden responded that the goal was to get everyone out who wanted out by Aug. 31, but if that wasn't achieved, "if you're American force – if there's American citizens left, we're gonna stay to get them all out."

Failing to do that and "Stung by the U.S. military's chaotic and deadly retreat," according to the AP, Biden has promised to continue trying to evacuate the "100 to 200 American citizens who want to leave, most of whom he said are dual citizens. And Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that extends to green card holders and Afghans who supported the U.S. government during the 20-year war."

Mike Jason runs one of the volunteer rescue groups, Allied Airlift 21. He said that they have been in contact with 78 green card holders trapped in Afghanistan, but that if you include their spouses and children, the actual number just in that group is closer to 400. 

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California is working to get people out, and he said the number of U.S. citizens still there and wanting to get out is close to 500. He said if you include their family members, it is closer to a thousand. 

"But an undersecretary of state said this past week," according to the outlet, “that all American citizens and permanent residents who could not get evacuation flights or were otherwise stranded had been contacted and told to expect further details about routes out once those have been arranged."

 

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