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Pentagon helping evacuate US troops’ families still stranded in Afghanistan

Civilians board an evacuation fight at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Aug. 25. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Davis Harris)
November 09, 2021

The Pentagon is providing renewed support to evacuate families of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan more than two months after the last U.S. troops left the country at the end of August.

On Thursday, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl circulated a memo stating the Department of Defense will continue to facilitate departures for U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residence (LPR) and eligible Afghan partners.

According to defense officials who spoke with NBC, 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.

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.

In his memo, Kahl said his office, along with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia in the Office the Joint Staff 37 Deputy Director for Special Operations would work with the Department of State’s Coordinator for Afghanistan Relocation Efforts (CARE) to facilitate departures for Afghan nationals “who have a unique connection to the DoD and qualify for departure to the United States.”

Kahl’s memo provided a specific email address that U.S. military personnel or civilian DoD employees can contact with the subject line “DoD Immediate Family Member,” to provide the names, contact information, locations, passport information and national identification cards for their immediate family members remaining in Afghanistan.

Kahl’s memo also states the DoD will continue to assist the State Department’s CARE office in developing plans to facilitate safe departures for extended family members of U.S. military personnel and civilian DoD employees.

Defense officials told NBC that prior to Kahl’s memo, the individual military services had been collecting information about family members left in Afghanistan and that Kahl’s memo is part of a DoD effort to consolidate that information.

One defense official said once the information is collected, the Pentagon will work with the State Department to extract family members who wish to leave. The official said the military itself will not have a role in actually getting people out of the country.

“I think it’s safe to say–I mean–that we would expect dozens of service members would have concerns over family members, and again, the reason we put the memo out was to encourage them,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a Monday press briefing. “If they have family members that they believe qualify that we want them to come forward. Let us know who they are, give us as much information as we can. We’ll nest that into the interagency effort.”

At the end of October, Kahl revealed during congressional testimony that more than 400 Americans remain in Afghanistan, including at least 196 Americans who were immediately ready and waiting to leave Afghanistan and another 243 Americans who may not be ready to leave. Kahl’s figures for Americans remaining in Afghanistan came after Biden White House officials initially said about 100 Americans were left in the country.