President Joe Biden abandoned as many as 9,000 American citizens in Afghanistan following the administration’s botched withdrawal in August last year, a new report released on Thursday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee revealed. The report contradicts the Biden administration’s earlier claims that just 100-150 were left behind.
Signed by Foreign Relations ranking member Jim Risch of Idaho, the report shows that senior State Department officials leading the evacuation task force believed 15,000 Americans at the most were in Afghanistan around Aug. 17. By Aug. 31, the final day of evacuation operations, 6,000 Americans managed to escape the country that was quickly taken over by the Taliban.
“Even taking the most conservative estimates from the F-77 report, this meant the United States left at least a few thousand people behind,” the report concluded.
Despite the State Department’s information on the number of Americans still in Afghanistan, Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified in September in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that “approximately 100-150 remained in Afghanistan who still wished to depart.”
The report also highlighted the Biden administration’s characterization of Americans left behind in Afghanistan, particularly Blinken’s “problematic” suggestion that some Americans were still unsure if they wanted to leave Afghanistan at the time.
“Instead of reinforcing the administration’s commitment to continue to evacuate Americans, Secretary Blinken instead parsed between dual nationals and American citizens claiming the remainder were ‘…dual citizens living in Afghanistan for years, decades, generations. Deciding whether or not to leave the place that they know as home is a wrenching decision.’ Dual citizens faced the same security threats and deserved the same efforts to depart Afghanistan as American citizens. The effort to distinguish between dual citizens and American citizens is a distinction without a difference, and appears to have been a messaging tactic to minimize the number of American citizens left behind,” the report stated.
The report also noted that despite “countless warnings” that the Taliban was going to “swiftly” take control of Afghanistan, the Biden administration “failed to properly plan a coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens, Afghans, and allied partners.”
“The administration waited until less than a day before Kabul fell to make senior leadership decisions on organizing and executing a withdrawal, which proved to be too little too late,” the report added. “While the Department of Defense and Department of State pulled off a major feat in the number of people evacuated, more of our partners could have been saved if proper planning had been conducted.”