Kinzinger calls on Biden to provide exact numbers of Afghans evacuated, left behind

Kinzinger calls on Biden to provide exact numbers of Afghans evacuated, left behind
© Greg Nash

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerKinzinger defends not supporting voting rights act: 'Democrats have to quit playing politics' Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases Illinois Democrats propose new 'maximized' congressional map MORE (R-Ill.) called on the Biden administration Wednesday to provide more detailed information about the evacuation efforts in Afghanistan to take stock of the vulnerable Afghans left behind.

The administration has said it had evacuated more than 123,000 people, including 6,000 Americans. The final U.S. military evacuation flight cleared Afghanistan’s airspace just after midnight on the Aug. 31 deadline.

However, unknown number of Afghans who are eligible for refugee status in the U.S. now face an uncertain future without American assistance on the ground.

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Those who partnered with the American forces over the 20-year war in Afghanistan, so-called Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and members of vulnerable groups are eligible for refugee status in the U.S.  

In a letter sent Wednesday, Kinzinger asked for a detailed breakdown of numbers from the Departments of State and Defense on Americans and Afghans who were evacuated and those who remain in the country.

He also asked for information related to the fatal terrorist attack last week outside the Kabul international airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 Afghans. 

“While I commend the administration for saving thousands of lives, I believe more could have been done to prevent the tragic loss of life on August 26, 2021 and to better prepare for the chaos that ensued this last week. And I’m looking to our Secretaries of State and Defense to get to those answers,” Kinzinger said in a statement.

“Our military community stepped up in a way many can hardly grasp right now, but I am incredibly proud of the men and women who have served this mission and all those that risked life and limb to defend this nation and save the lives of our allies," he added. "This effort is not over and nor should it be. We can never give up until our fellow Americans and our allies are safe.”

The Republican congressman gave the State and Defense departments a week to provide a detailed list of those who were evacuated and those who were not. 

The letter was supported by groups working on behalf of Afghans looking to leave Afghanistan and who qualify for SIV and refugee status, including No One Left Behind; International Refugee Assistance Program; Special Operations Associations of America (SOAA); and Alliance in Support of the Afghan People.

“No One Left Behind is tracking almost 200 families who were issued SIVs who were told to shelter in place by the State Department and never made it into the airport,” James Miervaldis, chairman of No One Left Behind, said in a statement.

“We are tracking over 1,000 SIV applicant families who are in the same situation. All are now hiding in Kabul. We are working to identify the true footprint of how many of our SIV allies the United States left behind,” he added. 

Daniel Elkins, executive director and co-founder of SOAA, called for a full congressional investigation on the planning and execution of the evacuation operation in Afghanistan. 

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“With multiple failures, potentially preventable loss of life, and far too many decision makers who admitted to being surprised by what was happening on the ground, the American people in general and the [Special Operations Forces] community in specific deserve answers,” Elkins said in a statement.  

The Biden administration has not provided any exact numbers of the 123,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, except for the 6,000 Americans who were part of that group.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday that much of the detailed breakdown of numbers will be “forthcoming” once these individuals have cycled through transit points, but that the vast majority are Afghans at risk.