Thousands of Afghans who helped the US are likely to be left behind as Biden refuses to move his August 31 troop-withdrawal deadline

Kabul airport
People trying to flee Afghanistan at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • President Joe Biden isn’t moving US troops’ Afghanistan exit deadline, leaving days for evacuations.
  • An estimated 300,000 Afghans helped the US, and a large proportion have yet to been evacuated.
  • Thousands of Afghans seeking asylum from the Taliban are likely to be left behind after August 31.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to portray the US evacuation of Afghans and US citizens from Afghanistan’s capital as a success story, saying the operation was on track to be completed by the August 31 deadline for military withdrawal.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House principal deputy press secretary, tweeted that as of 3 a.m. Wednesday the US had evacuated 82,300 people since August 14, the day before the Taliban took Kabul.

But the administration has made no mention of the thousands of Afghans who are believed to be vulnerable to retaliation by the Taliban and are likely to be left behind.

Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said on Wednesday that the US hoped to evacuate 100,000 people by August 31. That figure seemed to refer to US citizens as well as Afghans.

The total number of Afghans who have qualified for a visa in the US or with one of its allies or who meet the criteria for a visa is unknown.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for information on the figures.

The Biden administration has been criticized for not doing more to speed up the processing of Special Immigrant Visas – which are issued to Afghans considered to be at risk – before it dramatically scaled back its military presence in the country and the Taliban swept back into power.

The International Rescue Committee estimated earlier this month that about 300,000 Afghans “have been affiliated with the US mission and tens of thousands are eligible for SIVs.”

This indicates that many Afghans who’ve backed, or in some capacity worked for, the efforts by the US and its allies to reconstruct Afghanistan will not make it out.

An administration official told The New York Times on Tuesday it was possible that more than 100,000 people still needed to be evacuated.

Other estimates have been less specific, with US officials telling NBC News that the number left behind would be in the “thousands.”

A British government official told The Times of London that thousands of vulnerable Afghans – including politicians, civil servants, judges and humanitarian workers – would be unable to make it out before the deadline.

Read more: 
How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a ‘black hole’ to help their Afghan interpreters

The UK and other allies previously requested that Biden extend the withdrawal deadline to give them more time to complete evacuations, but the US president has refused.

“I’m furious. I feel helpless,” one US diplomat told Foreign Policy magazine, describing fears for Afghan allies who would be left behind.

“People are furious and disgusted,” a former US intelligence official told NBC News.