Pentagon taking steps to help US troops' family members in Afghanistan

Pentagon taking steps to help US troops' family members in Afghanistan
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The Pentagon is moving to help family members of U.S. troops still in Afghanistan evacuate, months after it pulled all military personnel from the country.

In a Thursday memo provided to The Hill, the Pentagon instructed all U.S. military personnel or Department of Defense (DOD) civilian employees with immediate family members in Afghanistan who are seeking evacuation to contact a DOD-associated email address as part of a new database.

They were instructed to use the subject “DoD Immediate Family Member,” and be prepared to pass along the individuals’ names, contact information, location, passport details and national identification card particulars.

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The memo said the Pentagon “places a high priority on facilitating the departure of Afghan nationals who are immediate family members” of U.S. citizens, military personnel and Defense Department employees, adding that the department will “continue to provide support in this relocation effort to the greatest possible extent.”

The memo did, however, note the obstacles on the ground.

NBC News first reported on the memo.

“Given the current situation in Afghanistan and the absence of an in-country U.S. embassy presence, there are a number of challenges related to departures of Afghan nationals, including those of unique interest to DoD,” the document added.

The memo was issued by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl and addressed to the secretary of the military departments, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chiefs of the military services, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, the commanders of the combat commands and the directors of defense agencies.

Dozens of immediate family members of U.S. military personnel remain in Afghanistan, defense officials told NBC News, including children, siblings and parents. Additionally, more than 100 extended family members are still living there, but officials said they do now know what percentage of that group is looking to leave.

A defense official told NBC that Kahl’s memo illustrates “a more deliberate effort at the DOD level” to examine how many people are still in the country.

“There is an increased desire to make sure that as we make this push that we have every situation accounted for,” the official said, adding that the Pentagon is taking efforts to “expand the reach” to ensure that family members of Defense Department personnel are receiving assistance.

The official said the Pentagon will collaborate with the State Department to evacuate family members who wish to leave once the department receives necessary information.

The U.S. military, however, will not play a role in helping to extract the family members, the official noted.

Officials also told the network that the Pentagon does not have a concrete way of determining how many family members of Pentagon personnel remain in Afghanistan, but noted that a sizable number of those with family still in the Taliban-controlled nation were born there. Some of them reportedly worked as interpreters before moving to the U.S. and joining the armed forces.

Lawmakers have spoken out regarding the lack of data disclosed by the Biden administration pertaining to the Afghanistan evacuation.

The U.S. evacuated more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan in August amid its troop withdrawal from the country.

---Updated 4:37 p.m.