Some Americans wanting out of Afghanistan not reached by State, 4 groups say – Nov. 16, 2021


11/16/2021 04:11 PM EST

Updated 11/16/2021 05:01 PM EST
With help from Daniel Lippman.

MIKE EDWARDS, founder of the volunteer rescue group Project Exodus, told NatSec Daily that at least nine American citizens still in Afghanistan who’ve contacted the U.S. government seeking rescue haven’t heard back yet. SCOTT MANN, leader of Task Force Pineapple, said they have “at least five American citizens” on their manifest who haven’t been contacted by the U.S. government for evacuation.

MATT NELSON of the September Group says he knows of seven Americans who haven’t been contacted by State but are ready to go.

“Task Force Argo’s database includes 45 American citizens and 116 Green Card holders, all of which have been reported to the State Department via official emails and websites. Task Force Argo handlers have provided the emails and phone contact information for these Americans and Green Card Holders in those official reports. Many of these at risk individuals meet all the State Department’s requirements for proper documentation and readiness to evacuate a dangerous and rapidly deteriorating environment. Some of those in our database are still awaiting a response and are looking forward to working with the State Department,” said ZACH NUNN and JESSE JENSEN of Task Force Argo in a statement sent to NatSec Daily. “While some of these American citizens and Green Card holders are in direct contact with State Department, they may be marked as not wanting to leave. In fact, these people do want to leave, but are not willing to leave their family parents or siblings behind. We hope to work with the State Department to expedite their departure.”

NatSec Daily couldn’t verify if there’s any overlap of American names on the groups’ respective lists, how the citizens reached out to the U.S. government or if they’re truly ready to depart.

Still, these statements contradict Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN’s assurance last week that all Americans who have the requisite documents and want to leave Afghanistan “have been offered an opportunity to do so.”

In response to the groups, a State official told NatSec Daily that “State continues to hear directly from American citizens and [long-term permanent residents] themselves in Afghanistan, or learns about them through evacuation coalition partners. When we are in touch, we work to verify their citizenship or immigration status, stay in contact when necessary or possible, and offer seats out of the country to those who have their documentation in order and are ready to go. We have reached out to coalition groups directly since your inquiry to make sure we are in contact with any American in Afghanistan who wishes to depart. While we have not received any new names yet, we remain committed to helping any American in Afghanistan who wishes to leave.”

Mann noted multiple times that his and other groups appreciate working alongside the State Department to evacuate Americans, green card holders, special immigrant visa grantees and more out of the Taliban-controlled country. Yesterday, Blinken met with representatives of #AfghanEvac, the umbrella group for the constellation of organizations seeking to rescue people from Afghanistan.

But Mann, who wasn’t in that meeting, also said State and other agencies don’t have a good grasp of the dire situation in the country. “I just don’t think they have a handle on the problem,” he said in a phone interview, noting the 5,500 and 6,000 people under his group’s care alone. “I don’t think they have a handle on the disposition of the American citizens and green card holders to the level that they claim to have.”

In a separate call, Edwards said working to put at-risk Afghans on State-sponsored flights out of the country is “almost impossible, like a ghost we can’t get a hold of,” he said.

Mann also reiterated a point volunteer organizations like his keep making: The coming winter will exacerbate a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, only made worse by the fact that these aid groups might run out of money in less than two months.

“The money is going to run out. I think it’s going to happen in winter,” he said, noting an average burn rate of $15,000 per day. “A lot of veterans who are going to be facing a mental health crisis because they’re going to be the ones that have to tell those people they can’t pay their rent anymore.”

The claims made by the veteran-led groups are already leading to some anger on Capitol Hill.

“For months now, the State Department has lied to the public about the number of Americans left behind in Afghanistan,” said Rep. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-Fla.), a former Green Beret and current member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Luckily, we have veterans groups on the ground helping evacuate our citizens where our government has failed and continue to shine a light on conditions on the ground.”

Today during a briefing for congressional staffers, State officials said that there are 224 American citizens still in Afghanistan and that about 50 are “ready to leave.”