The future of students, relatives and staff of the American University of Afghanistan remains uncertain amid the Taliban takeover of the country, according to the institution's president.
Ian Bickford, president of the university, appeared on CNN's "New Day" to detail the plight of students and faculty who hoped to leave the country Sunday.
"The future of our students and staff in the country, our faculty in the country remains unclear. We don't know the level of persecution they'll face," Bickford said.
Students, relatives and staff from the American University of Afghanistan are stuck and trying to get out, President Ian Bickford says.— New Day (@NewDay) August 31, 2021
"We have been attempting to move 1,200 students, faculty, staff and family members out of Afghanistan," he said. Their future is "unclear." pic.twitter.com/5lzDUpGg9k
The United States has completed its mission to withdraw all of its troops by the Aug. 31 deadline set by President BidenJoe BidenPfizer CEO says vaccine data for those under 5 could be available by end of year Omicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles MORE. The last American military flight left the country on Monday, ending a 20-year conflict that was sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks.
Before the final plane left the ground, the U.S. took part in a series of evacuation efforts to get Americans and Afghan partners out of the country and away from Taliban rule. However, these efforts were marred by death and chaos — a suicide bomber on Thursday detonated an explosive near the Kabul international airport killing over 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
Bickford explained that over the past two weeks, the university has been attempting to help students and other members of the university's community relocate, adding that Sunday was their "best hope."
"We organized a convoy of more than a dozen buses. Something like 500 students, close to 600 students, family, staff, faculty boarded those buses with the sincere hope that they would be given permission to enter the airport, board flights and begin their journey to a better life," Bickford said of the Sunday effort.
He said that once the group arrived, they were advised to return home.
"We did not receive permission to enter the airport, but the security threat increased dramatically and it was the best thing for us to ask our students to return home and stay safe," he said.
"We have been attempting to move 1,200 students, faculty, staff and family members out of Afghanistan. The numbers of our total community are much greater. Many of them would also like to leave Afghanistan."
Bickford said that while the future for those remaining in Afghanistan is uncertain, they remain hopeful.
"It's very important that they are able to continue their studies so that they can bring their ambition their optimism and their hope for Afghanistan back home, perhaps in a distant future, but they're still hopeful that their country will resume some level of free and fair civil society," he said.
Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Blinken decries coordinated Russian destabilizing efforts Biden says team working on 'initiatives' to prevent Russian invasion of Ukraine MORE said on Monday that the number of Americans remaining in the country has fallen to less than 200.