scorecardThere's a high likelihood that Americans will be left behind in Afghanistan
  1. Home
  2. international
  3. news
  4. There's a high likelihood that Americans will be left behind in Afghanistan

There's a high likelihood that Americans will be left behind in Afghanistan

Michelle Mark   

There's a high likelihood that Americans will be left behind in Afghanistan
LifeInternational3 min read
U.S. soldiers stand inside the airport as hundreds of people gather near an evacuation control checkpoint on the perimeter of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.     Associated Press/Wali Sabawoon
  • There are still at least hundreds of Americans left in Afghanistan ahead of the August 31 US withdrawal date.
  • "The likelihood is high" that some will get left behind, counterterrorism expert Jason Killmeyer told Insider on Wednesday.
  • The evacuations were thrown into even more jeopardy after multiple explosions at the Kabul airport on Thursday.

After nearly two weeks of chaotic evacuations from Kabul, it's becoming increasingly clear that some Americans will be stranded in Afghanistan after the US completes its withdrawal on August 31, according to some lawmakers and counterterrorism experts.

The US has evacuated some 4,500 Americans since the August 14 airlift began, according to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. But multiple explosions at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday threw the remaining evacuations into jeopardy, killing dozens - including at least 12 US service members.

The precise number of Americans remaining in the country is unclear, but a State Department spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that 500 of the 1,500 Americans it had been tracking in the country were evacuated within the last 24 hours. US officials were phoning, emailing, and texting the remaining 1,000 multiple times a day to confirm their whereabouts and check if they still want to evacuate, according to the statement.

Jason Killmeyer, a former chief of staff of global defense, security & justice at Deloitte, told Insider the likelihood was high that Americans will get left behind - and even higher in the wake of Thursday's attacks.

"The Taliban will have their revenge… the brutality of the regime will be revealed to any of us here in the United States and in the west who may have forgotten about it," he said.

The US troops still left in Afghanistan already have their hands full with the retrograding process of withdrawing; with the evacuation of those already inside the wire at the airport; and with immediate anti-ISIS defense operations, Killmeyer said. He likened the Americans left in Afghanistan to "sitting ducks," and said it was likely too late for the Biden administration to employ any last-minute rescue maneuvers.

"That probably now rules out those daring helicopter rescues that we were running about three or four days ago," he said.

The New York Times reported Thursday that some senior US officials doubt the evacuations will be completed by August 31. Some lawmakers have also expressed doubts that Biden will be able to fulfill his promise to bring all Americans home. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told NPR that "unless something changes, it looks like the president and his team have a plan that is just to accept the risk that we will leave Americans behind."

The US is running out of options to get people out

Already, the Biden administration has begun implementing drastic solutions to get Americans past Taliban checkpoints and into the airport. The CIA and the US military have been conducting clandestine rescue missions for Americans trapped in and around Kabul, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Officials told the newspaper that the military has rescued over 200 Americans in the last week - some airlifted via helicopter, and others on the ground, where troops led them by foot into the airport.

kabul explosion afghanistan
Smoke rises from a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.      Associated Press/Wali Sabawoon
Killmeyer said there may only be a few options when it comes to rescuing any stranded Americans once the August 31 deadline passes - and those options will depend on how many are left.

"Is the number of Americans left behind such that we require some other element of a formal military-led capacity?" he said. "Or is it more of a one-on-one type of individual negotiation process?"

Past the deadline, Killmeyer said the Biden administration could negotiate a temporary presence in one of Afghanistan's neighboring countries to the north, which include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

The US could also focus on specific cities or provinces in Afghanistan where Americans remain, and engage in an "institutional but non-military evacuation capacity," he said.

The Biden administration has so far rejected the notion that Americans could be left behind. White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki told one reporter on Monday it was "irresponsible" to suggest Americans were stranded.

"We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home," Psaki said.