Here is the truth no one will tell you, based on daily dialogue with credible sources, firsthand data from Afghanistan. As a former Assistant Secretary of State, the sources are irrefutable, true.
Hard reality: As of late October, at least 38,000 persons remain in Afghanistan who possess official US-issued documents or have relationships that entitle their immediate exit.
Hard reality: The 38,000 credentialed individuals are US citizens, green-card holders, former US embassy personnel, and holders of SIV (Special Immigrant Visas). Breakdowns vary.
Hard reality: These individuals want out, were promised they would not be left behind, are in mortal danger, hiding from he Taliban. Asked what percentage is at risk of death, the answer was “100 percent.”
Hard reality: Horrific human rights abuses, a euphemism for the most egregious acts of violating human dignity and life, are being committed daily, attributable to US abandonment.
Hard reality: These events will continue, with US humiliation growing, until the Biden Administration acknowledges the horror, takes responsibility and gets them out.
Hard reality: Denial, deflection, and trivializing this human catastrophe will not make it go away. Continued cowardice, half-truths, and dodging will not put this right.
Hard reality: The Biden State Department is failing – with White House and Pentagon – by not being proactive at a time when being proactive, creative, and responsible is critical.
What can State do? What must they do? What is not being done – to save lives? Six things.
First, State must negotiate immediate landing rights for planes with any of the 38,000 (fully vetted) individuals, assuring the US will accept asylum applications from any not American citizens or green-card holders. These are vetted, evacuees. The State can do this.
Second, State must put pressure (diplomatic, economic, finance, security) on Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan – to allow overland evacuees entry, with proper credentials or clearance from State based on past US employment, SIV, or US citizen sponsorship. Pakistan just closed Torkham Gate, and that must reopen. The State can do this.
Third, getting these 38,000 out requires the Taliban, who are sucking air. They are daily in firefights with ISIS-K. They have minimal access to financial markets, humanitarian aid, or technical assistance. They will soon have no air commerce, as deicing equipment is broken.
Since they need technical assistance, food, medicine – we have leverage. We must say: We are coming in to secure the airport, need your help to get all 38,000 out – or you will be stranded.
Working together, White House, State, and Defense can do this.
Fourth, Pakistan and the entire civilized world – with pressure put on NATO, Far East, Russia (which fears Islamic radicalism), and China (who wants future global relations) – must say with one voice, let this happen. If in harmony, the Taliban will hear them. The State can do this.
Fifth, for an orderly evacuation, US airframes must be allowed into Afghan airspace. As a result, the US should support subsequent efforts by Afghanistan to secure aviation accords for revenue. The State can do this.
Sixth, to retrieve others with US affiliation, a final round of SIV applications should be permitted and expedited by State, followed by final evacuations. The State can do this.
Better than denying this horrific miscarriage of justice and human tragedy, be proactive. Better than claiming success for failure, or spinning failure, own it and fix it.
Bottom line: Terror is afoot in Afghanistan, putting 38,000 American-affiliated persons at risk. The moral failing is Biden’s. It is not going away. It is not over. To get this right is hard. That is why leadership – moral and political – is imperative. If not now, when?