About 60 U.S. service members have come forward to identify family members still stuck in Afghanistan but none of those family members can be helped because they haven’t qualified for U.S. evacuation assistance, according to the Pentagon.
In a Pentagon press briefing on Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby was asked about a November 4 Department of Defense memo instructing service members on how they can help get family members stranded in Afghanistan evacuated.
The November 4 memo instructed service members to provide the names, contact information, locations, passport information and national identification cards for their immediate family members remaining in Afghanistan and said the U.S. State Department’s Coordinator for Afghanistan Relocation Efforts (CARE) would also develop plans to facilitate the evacuations of extended family members.
“DoD places a high priority on facilitating the departure of the Afghan nationals who are immediate family members of U.S. citizen or [lawful permanent resident] military personnel (active duty, reservists, and membersofthe National Guard) and DoD civilian employees,” the memo stated.
In the nearly two weeks since the memo went out, Kirby said “about 60 service members have come forward and expressed concerns about family members in Afghanistan.”
“Thus far of the ones that have been studied and reviewed, they are not eligible for parole status,” Kirby continued.
The exact number of family members of U.S. service members still in Afghanistan is unclear.
Military.com reported that over the last month, veterans groups and members of Congress helped evacuate the combined 509 relatives of 48 service members across the Army and Marine Corps. Many of the service members were Afghan natives who served as interpreters before they immigrated to the U.S. and subsequently enlisted in the military.
According to defense officials who spoke with NBC last week, there are still several dozen immediate family members and more than 100 extended family members of U.S. service members still in Afghanistan to this day.
“We were able to get some family members out of service members during the evacuation,” Kirby said on Monday. “And since the evacuation, some have gotten out. The question put to me was since the memo was put out how many? 60 have come forward since the memo.”
Kirby said a total of 62 service members asked for help evacuating family members during the U.S. military-led evacuation of Kabul in August. Of those 62 service members who asked for help, Kirby said 50 family members of six DOD, civilians and service members were evacuated on U.S. government flights and “more were probably gotten out on privately funded NGO flights.”
Since the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan on August 31, Kirby said “we have helped facilitate the impending relocation of about 10 other family members.”