Politico national security reporter Alex Ward released leaked U.S. State Department evacuation numbers from Kabul, Afghanistan on Twitter Tuesday. According to Ward, within 15 hours on August 23 (midnight-3 p.m.), the United States evacuated a total of 6,916 people from the country. Of those, only 483 were American citizens. The vast majority of evacuees were Afghan nationals, numbering 6,425. The remaining eight were either from a third country or their country of origin was unknown.
Since the evacuation effort began, the U.S. has evacuated a total of 26,582 people from Afghanistan, according to Ward. American citizens make up 4,407 of the rescued, while Afghans make up 21,533, and third-country nationals represent 642.
NEW: Leaked State cable with evacuation numbers (as of Aug 23 at 1500 ET):
Total manifested since midnight Kabul AUG 23: 483 AMCITS, 6,425 Afghans natls, 8 3rd country/unknown. Total = 6,916
Total manifested since op began: 4,407 AMCITS, 21,533 Afghans, 642 TCNs. Total = 26,582
— Alex Ward (@alexbward) August 24, 2021
The newly released numbers — revealing the U.S. evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees — are amplifying serious concerns over our national security and the vetting process for rescued individuals. The leaked numbers also come in the wake of dangerous national security mistakes made by France and the United Kingdom.
Just Tuesday morning, the BBC reported that the U.K. accidentally evacuated a person on its no-fly list from Afghanistan. Despite the unnamed individual being identified on the no-fly list after landing in Birmingham, England, U.K. officials decided to allow the person to enter the country.
The same day, a government spokesman for France announced that as part of an investigation into links with the Taliban, they have detained an Afghan whom they evacuated. The detained man admitted to being a member of the Taliban “and said he had worked as the armed head of a Taliban checkpoint in Kabul.” French officials also believe he is close to another Afghan evacuee suspected of working for the Taliban.
Unanswered questions about the U.S. vetting process are mounting. Many wonder if the Biden administration has any plan for safely letting people into the United States, given that the lack of preparation has left the administration scrambling to even get people out of Afghanistan before the Taliban takes total control.
As of now, the Biden administration has yet to reveal how thoroughly it is vetting individuals evacuated from Afghanistan. Even if they are checking everyone, we do not know how many have been turned away or where the administration plans to take them if they do not pass a basic background check.
Biden said on Sunday that evacuees from Kabul would be “landing at U.S. military bases and transit centers around the world” for screening, before Afghans were welcomed “to their new home in the United States of America.” The president said these evacuees would be processed at U.S. bases including those in Qatar, Germany, Kuwait, and Spain.
Leaked emails reported by Axios, however, described conditions where Afghans are being held at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar, as a “living hell” with a rat infestation and “trash, urine, fecal matter, spilled liquids and vomit cover[ing] the floors.” It remains unclear how thorough vetting of thousands of Afghan nationals can take place under such circumstances.
The resettlement process itself has also sparked serious concern among those who believe rescued Afghan people should be brought to countries where they can best assimilate.