Veteran-led rescue groups based in the United States say the Biden administration’s estimate that no more than 200 U.S. citizens were left behind in Afghanistan is too low and also overlooks hundreds of other people they consider to be equally American: permanent legal residents with green cards.
Some groups say they continue to be contacted by American citizens in Afghanistan who did not register with the U.S. Embassy before it closed and by others not included in previous counts because they expressed misgivings about leaving loved ones behind.
As for green card holders, they have lived in the U.S. for years, paid taxes, become part of their communities and often have children who are U.S. citizens. Yet the administration says it does not have an estimate on the number of such permanent residents who are in Afghanistan and desperately trying to escape Taliban rule.
“The fear is that nobody is looking for them,” said Howard Shen, spokesman for the Cajon Valley Union School District in the San Diego area that is in contact with one such family who says they cannot get out.
“They are thousands of miles away under an oppressive regime and we’re leaving them behind,” he said. “That’s not right.”
Stung by the U.S. military’s chaotic and deadly retreat, President Biden has promised that evacuation efforts will continue for the 100 to 200 American citizens who want to leave, most of whom he said are dual citizens. And Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that extends to green card holders and Afghans who supported the U.S. government during the 20-year war.
It’s unclear how that will work without an active U.S. military presence in the country and the Taliban-controlled Kabul airport, a major way out of the country, now closed. But an undersecretary of state said this past week that all American citizens and permanent residents who could not get evacuation flights or were otherwise stranded had been contacted and told to expect further details about routes out once those have been arranged.