Wednesday, August 25, 2021

How Many Remain in Afghanistan?

I've been thinking about this, especially the number of Americans are deadly risk of being left behind.

At the New York Times, "How Many People in Afghanistan Need to be Rescued? The Number Remains Elusive":

WASHINGTON — More than 70,700 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan as of Tuesday evening. Nearly 6,000 American troops are protecting the international airport in Kabul, the capital. And additional U.S. flights are leaving every 45 minutes.

The Biden administration has provided a stream of updates about its airlift of Americans, Afghans and others since Aug. 14, when the Taliban closed in on Kabul. Yet U.S. officials are reluctant to offer an estimate of the one number that matters most: How many people ultimately need to be rescued.

That tally has never been more critical, with the American government preparing to wind down evacuations as the U.S. military begins its final withdrawal from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, President Biden reaffirmed his plan to remove all American troops by Aug. 31, although he left room “to adjust the timeline should that become necessary.”

But U.S. officials believe that thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan, including some far beyond Kabul, without a safe or fast way to get to the airport. Tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. government over the last 20 years, and are eligible for special visas, are desperate to leave.

And refugee and resettlement experts estimate that at least 300,000 Afghans are in imminent danger of being targeted by the Taliban for associating with Americans and U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Recounting his conversations with other world leaders, Mr. Biden said Tuesday evening at the White House that they had agreed to “continue our close cooperation to get people out as efficiently and safely as possible.”

“We’re currently on a pace to finish by August the 31st,” Mr. Biden said. “The sooner we can finish the better.”

But other senior U.S. officials doubt the evacuations will be complete by then.

“Americans want us to stay until we get our people out, and so do our allies,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said Tuesday. Mr. Biden, he added, should “tell the Taliban we’re getting our people out however long it takes.”

Administration officials say the numbers are changing on an hourly basis, if not minute-to-minute, especially since other countries have their own evacuation operations.

But the American effort is unquestionably the largest. Given the resources and risk the United States is putting into the evacuation, how can the government not know how many people it is planning to fly out?

“Very good question! We are wondering the same,” said James Miervaldis, the chairman of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that advocates the relocation of Afghan interpreters to the United States. Here is what we know...

Keep reading.