The majority of Afghan special immigrant visa applicants who aided U.S. forces did not safely exit Afghanistan before the Biden administration withdrew, the State Department said on Wednesday.
A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Politico he and his team are "haunted" by the failure to assist applicants, many of whom were translators and aides for U.S. forces for decades in Afghanistan, often in life-or-death situations. The United States opened up 34,500 slots for SIV applicants, but an estimated 50,000 Afghans were interested in applying.
"There were days it did not work well," a State Department official said. "We had a couple of instances where buses were a mix of foreign nationals and Afghan local employees of other missions, and the Talibs would only let pass the foreign nationals, and they turned away or they held at that location the Afghan citizens who were on that particular movement."
Taliban checkpoints at the Kabul airport and nearby—as well as brutal killings of Afghans suspected of working with the United States—hindered the evacuation of some translators.
One Afghan interpreter who was left behind had rescued President Joe Biden during a 2008 visit to Afghanistan. Biden and former senators Chuck Hagel (R.) and John Kerry (D.) landed in a dangerous valley during a snowstorm and required evacuation with the assistance of the translator. He is now hiding out in Afghanistan with his wife and four children.
"Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family," the translator told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. "Don’t forget me here."
Another translator who was unable to secure a safe exit from Afghanistan expressed fear to the Washington Free Beacon that he would be killed if spotted by the Taliban. Up to 200 Americans, including dozens of children, also remain in the Taliban-controlled country.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) ripped the Biden administration's botched withdrawal in a Tuesday statement.
"President Biden prioritized political considerations over American lives and national security," Cruz said. "He imposed an artificial deadline untethered from conditions on the ground, and refused to adjust or adapt even as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan and catastrophes mounted. He met his artificial deadline but broke all the promises he made to the American people. … And he dragged our nation into a crippling, humiliating defeat that has shaken our allies and emboldened our enemies."