The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

State Department Leaving Green-Card Holders Behind in Afghanistan?

A U.S. Air Force Security Forces Raven aboard a C-17 in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at the Kabul airport, August 24, 2021 (U.S. Air Force / Master Sergeant Donald R. Allen / Reuters)

On the menu today: An ominous account suggests that the U.S. State Department is no longer working on evacuating U.S. green-card holders from Afghanistan; the illogic of relying on the Taliban to prevent deadly terrorist attacks from ISIS-K; and the president appears to lie about why the U.S. abandoned Bagram Air Base.

U.S. State Department: ‘Only U.S. Citizens’ Prioritized for Evacuation

My reader who is trying to get his former Afghan employees out of the country says that the U.S. State Department is now stating that its only priority is evacuating U.S. citizens — not U.S. green-card holders or lawful permanent residents.

My reader’s colleague, attempting to get a lawful permanent resident who is marked for death by the Taliban out of the country, says he was told by late Thursday night by a State Department operator that, “I need to move on to my next call, sir. Goodbye.” When his colleague interjected, “What about permanent residents?” the State Department operator responded, “only U.S. citizens.”

If that operator’s statement reflects a change in U.S. policy, it is one that the department is hiding from the public. The website of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan still states: “The Department of State’s efforts are devoted to evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA). Our first priority is U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States, along with eligible family members.”

My reader shared with me this particular green-card holder’s name, date of birth, green-card number, Afghan passport number, family members, U.S. and Afghan phone numbers, and two email accounts. The green-card holder and his family are hiding in two apartments in a particular neighborhood near the airport, and they describe their situation as “not safe.”

As my reader put it, “He’s as American as you or me.” (See here, here, here, and here for background on this reader.)

Yesterday, our Charlie Cooke, a former green-card holder, declared that:

When one obtains a green card, one is obtaining permission to live in the United States for the rest of one’s life. It’s not a visa. It’s not a temporary permission slip. It’s permanent residency. And, as Americans, we have a duty to bring the people we have welcomed to America forever back to where they belong: home.

That appears to no longer be the policy of this administration.

How Much Does the Taliban Really Want to Stop Attacks by ISIS-K?

I’ll take it on faith from U.S. counterterrorism experts that the Taliban and ISIS-K see each other as rivals and enemies. (The K stands for Khorosan, meaning a region that includes Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.)

But even if the Taliban and ISIS-K are enemies, I wonder just how motivated the Taliban is to prevent ISIS-K from blowing up American soldiers, American civilians, and crowds of Afghans who worked with the Americans desperately trying to get out of the country. The Taliban put the Haqqani Network in charge of Kabul; the Haqqani Network is the deadliest and most dangerous terrorist faction within their ranks and has been a designated terrorist group since 2012. The deliberate U.S. policy was to rely on a terrorist group (the Taliban) who subcontracted to another terrorist group (the Haqqani Network) to protect our people from another terrorist group (ISIS-K). It appears to be terrorist groups all the way down.

We keep getting told that preventing terrorist attacks targeting Americans is in the Taliban’s interest. But just what did the Taliban lose in yesterday’s deadly attacks outside Kabul International Airport? Maybe a little prestige or a perception of being in control? Certainly, the Taliban didn’t lose nearly as much as the U.S. or Afghan people did.

Even if the Taliban is motivated to keep ISIS from blowing up crowds of Americans and pro-American Afghans, it also seems fair to wonder how competent the Taliban is at a task such as sniffing out suicide bombers and terrorist plots. Few if any of their members are investigators or experienced in counterterrorism. The Taliban’s own spokesman said Afghan women should stay in their homes, as their soldiers “are not trained” to be around women. They’re forcibly abducting teenage girls to be “brides” which is their term for sex slaves. They’re reportedly running around having sex with corpses. Taliban forces near the airport are beating and whipping journalists, killing gays and chopping up the bodies, and beating and abusing United Nations employees. The Taliban sure are tough when they’re picking on somebody who’s defenseless.

Any military force that cannot be trusted to not have sex with corpses does not seem like a reliable option to establish a secure perimeter and keep ISIS terrorists out.

Why would any U.S. policymaker agree to give the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green-card holders, and Afghan allies to grant entry into the militant-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport? As one defense official told Politico, “Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list.”

For months, journalists have been asking President Biden if he trusted the Taliban — because if it was possible that a U.S. withdrawal would result in the Taliban running the country again, the U.S. would get stuck with an untrustworthy hostile regime running the country. America would face the same problem it started with on the afternoon of September 11, a militant Islamist regime that offered a home to terrorist groups.

Biden keeps insisting he doesn’t trust the Taliban, but he keeps making policy decisions as if he’s convinced that this time, the Taliban will be reasonable.

Back on July 8:

Q: Mr. President, will you amplify that question, please? Will you amplify your answer, please — why you don’t trust the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a — it’s a silly question. Do I trust the Taliban? No. But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.

But by the time of his Stephanopolous interview last week, Biden was characterizing the Taliban as cooperating. “Look, one of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out, what they would do. What are they doing now? They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera.”

At the time of that interview, the Taliban were not always allowing American personnel to get out.

And even yesterday, after ISIS-K had managed to get through any Taliban security perimeter twice, President Biden insisted that relying on the Taliban for the outer perimeter security was the right call:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. There has been some criticism, even from people in your party, about the dependence on the Taliban to secure the perimeter of the airport. Do you feel like there was a mistake made in that regard?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t. Look, I think General McKenzie handled this question very well. The fact is that we’re in a situation — we inherited a situation, particularly since, as we all know, that the Afghan military collapsed 11 days before — in 11 days — that it is in the interest of, as Mackenzie said, in the interest of the Taliban that, in fact, ISIS-K does not metastasize beyond what it is, number one. And number two, it’s in their interest that we are able to leave on time, on target.

Is it? Just how certain are we that we know how the Taliban leadership defines their best interest? Isn’t it conceivable that the Taliban, or some factions within the group, want to maximize U.S. casualties and American humiliation in the final days? Particularly if ISIS-K gets the blame?

Even if you’re absolutely convinced that the Taliban is motivated to protect those crowds outside the airport gates, after yesterday, why on earth would any American official think the Taliban are capable of protecting those crowds outside the airport gates? Why is the plan for today to just hope that the Taliban do a better job than they did yesterday?

Biden Blames the Military for Abandoning Bagram

My colleague Mark Wright noticed that Biden’s explanation for abandoning Bagram Air Base — “They concluded, the military, that Bagram was not much value added” — does not match what General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said just last week:

If we were to keep both Bagram and the embassy going, that would be a significant number of military forces that would have exceeded what we had or stayed the same or exceeded what we had. So we had to collapse one or the other, and a decision was made . . . going out of HKIA — was estimated to be the better tactical solution in accordance with the mission set we were given and in accordance with getting the troops down to about 600, 700 number.

In other words, the administration had decided that the Pentagon could only keep 600 to 700 troops in the country, forcing them to abandon either Bagram Air Base or Kabul International Airport. Having forced the U.S. military to take a weaker position, Biden now blames the military for recommending the option he demanded.

The president is either a pathological liar, or something is wrong with him.

ADDENDUM: Thank you for continuing to read the Morning Jolt through what has become one of the darkest and most depressing weeks in recent history. Writing about Afghans who worked for the U.S. being beaten and executed by the Taliban in the town square makes covering a highly contagious virus that is killing hundreds of Americans each day look light-hearted and reassuring. This is also the kind of week when people like me receive a lot of messages on social media like, “You wanted to see American casualties. You wanted America to fail so you could blame Biden” when we report that there are American casualties. These messages often come from the same people who have been high-fiving each other every time the Florida coronavirus death toll goes up.

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