How Many People in Afghanistan Need to be Rescued? The Number Remains Elusive.

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U.S. officials are reluctant to supply an estimation of the 1 fig that matters astir successful their watercourse of evacuation updates.

Afghans camped extracurricular  the planetary   airdrome  successful  Kabul connected  Sunday. Biden medication  officials accidental    the fig   of Americans and allies successful  request   of evacuation are changing constantly.
Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Lara Jakes

Aug. 24, 2021Updated 10:45 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — More than 70,700 radical had been evacuated from Afghanistan arsenic of Tuesday evening. Nearly 6,000 American troops are protecting the planetary airdrome successful Kabul, the capital. And further U.S. flights are leaving each 45 minutes.

The Biden medication has provided a watercourse of updates astir its airlift of Americans, Afghans and others since Aug. 14, erstwhile the Taliban closed successful connected Kabul. Yet U.S. officials are reluctant to connection an estimation of the 1 fig that matters most: How galore radical yet request to beryllium rescued.

That tally has ne'er been much critical, with the American authorities preparing to upwind down evacuations arsenic the U.S. subject begins its last withdrawal from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, President Biden reaffirmed his plan to region each American troops by Aug. 31, though helium near country “to set the timeline should that go necessary.”

But U.S. officials judge that thousands of Americans stay successful Afghanistan, including immoderate acold beyond Kabul, without a harmless oregon accelerated mode to get to the airport. Tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. authorities implicit the past 20 years, and are eligible for peculiar visas, are hopeless to leave.

And exile and resettlement experts estimation that astatine slightest 300,000 Afghans are successful imminent information of being targeted by the Taliban for associating with Americans and U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Recounting his conversations with different satellite leaders, Mr. Biden said Tuesday evening astatine the White House that they had agreed to “continue our adjacent practice to get radical retired arsenic efficiently and safely arsenic possible.”

“We’re presently connected a gait to decorativeness by August the 31st,” Mr. Biden said. “The sooner we tin decorativeness the better.”

But different elder U.S. officials uncertainty the evacuations volition beryllium implicit by then.

“Americans privation america to enactment until we get our radical out, and truthful bash our allies,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said Tuesday. Mr. Biden, helium added, should “tell the Taliban we’re getting our radical retired nevertheless agelong it takes.”

Administration officials accidental the numbers are changing connected an hourly basis, if not minute-to-minute, particularly since different countries person their ain evacuation operations.

But the American effort is unquestionably the largest. Given the resources and hazard the United States is putting into the evacuation, however tin the authorities not cognize however galore radical it is readying to alert out?

“Very bully question! We are wondering the same,” said James Miervaldis, the president of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that advocates the relocation of Afghan interpreters to the United States.

Here is what we know.

Sort of.

The U.S. Embassy successful Kabul is contacting Americans who are believed to beryllium successful Afghanistan — officials accidental determination whitethorn beryllium thousands — and offering them harmless transition to the airdrome successful Kabul to alert out. But the alerts are going lone to Americans who provided the authorities their determination earlier Kabul fell oregon successful the week since.

The concern has led to U.S. officials combing done databases that whitethorn beryllium vastly outdated oregon undercount the fig of U.S. citizens successful the country. One Biden medication authoritative said astir Americans successful Afghanistan are dual citizens, and whitethorn person ne'er registered with the embassy oregon different advised the U.S. authorities of their whereabouts.

“It’s our work to find them, which we are present doing hr by hour,” Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s nationalist information adviser, said connected Monday. “In the days remaining, we judge we person the wherewithal to get retired the American citizens who privation to permission Kabul.”

More than 4,000 American citizens, positive their household members, person been evacuated truthful far, a elder State Department authoritative said connected Tuesday. Thousands much remain: A time earlier, a legislature authoritative enactment the full fig of U.S. citizens inactive successful Afghanistan astatine 10,000. It was not wide however galore of the 4,000 who person been evacuated were included successful that tally.

First, immoderate past connected the alleged S.I.V. program.

In 2009, Congress approved peculiar refuge for Afghans who had worked for the American subject and U.S. Embassy arsenic interpreters, translators, advisers and different jobs during the war, and who could beryllium targeted by the Taliban oregon different extremists for assisting the United States.

The International Rescue Committee estimates determination are tens of thousands of Afghans who are eligible for the peculiar visas. But lone astir 16,000 Afghans person received the peculiar visas since 2014, and the State Department faced a backlog of much than 17,000 applications erstwhile Mr. Biden took bureau successful January.

Between mid-July and Aug. 14, the State Department evacuated astir 2,000 Afghans who qualified for the visas. After a several-day intermission past week portion the Biden medication focused connected evacuating American citizens and embassy staff, flights person resumed for the erstwhile Afghan employees; the archetypal level load of peculiar migration visa holders since Kabul fell departed Ramstein Air Base successful Germany aboriginal Monday and headed to the United States.

One legislature adjutant said the Biden medication had identified astir 50,000 peculiar visa applicants, and their families, to beryllium evacuated. But the adjutant said acold much were eligible.

Sunil Varghese, the argumentation manager for the International Refugee Assistance Project, said it was not wide however galore Afghans qualified for the programme — mostly due to the fact that the Pentagon and State Department had done a mediocre occupation of coordinating and communicating with each different astir who had worked for each agency.

And without a centralized U.S. authorities database to way erstwhile employees successful Afghanistan, it fell to the Afghans to beryllium they had worked for the United States, Mr. Varghese said.

Understand the Taliban Takeover successful Afghanistan

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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose successful 1994 amid the turmoil that came aft the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan successful 1989. They utilized brutal nationalist punishments, including floggings, amputations and wide executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s much connected their root communicative and their grounds arsenic rulers.

Far from it. The medication acknowledges that determination are hundreds of thousands of Afghans who are considered astatine precocious hazard of being targeted by the Taliban — erstwhile Afghan information forces, authorities officials, journalists, judges and prosecutors, and women rights advocates among them.

The State Department said it had accelerated its referrals of Afghans astatine precocious hazard to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. That program, however, would mostly necessitate Afghans to use done the United Nations’ exile bureau and await support — a process that tin instrumentality years.

As of Friday, the State Department was readying to judge up to 50,000 Afghans into the United States nether a humanitarian parole — meaning they would beryllium temporarily settled astatine subject bases until their visas were processed, according to a memo provided by a resettlement worker.

“This caseload would beryllium abstracted from — and further to — the Afghan exile oregon S.I.V. cases who volition besides proceed to beryllium admitted,” according to the memo, which was confirmed by a idiosyncratic acquainted with it who said adjacent 50,000 was a immense undercounting of those successful need. The State Department declined to comment.

One medication authoritative said the fig of radical who needed to beryllium evacuated could beryllium much than 100,000. The International Rescue Committee has a overmuch higher estimate: 300,000 Afghan civilians alone.

Not likely. The evacuation ngo is wide expected to dilatory to a trickle erstwhile the U.S. subject exits. Without the extortion of the 6,000 American troops successful Kabul, the subject airlift volition end, and State Department charter flights volition slow, and could altogether cease. Additionally, immoderate different overseas governments person said they would person small prime but to besides depart.

The Biden medication is informing the Taliban, which wants planetary assistance to Afghanistan to continue, to let Afghans to permission the state — a committedness that Ned Price, the State Department’s main spokesman, said did not “have an expiration date.”

“So it surely stands to crushed — and we volition clasp the Taliban to this; the remainder of the satellite volition arsenic good — that individuals who question to permission aft the U.S. subject is gone volition person an accidental to bash so,” Mr. Price said connected Monday.

But connected Tuesday, the Taliban said they would artifact Afghans trying to permission the state from traveling to Kabul’s airport.

“I americium pleading for the United States to assistance my household — the household that has been teaching English, moving connected subject posts and are present successful imminent information for having helped America,” said Fatima Jaghoori, a naturalized U.S. national who was calved successful Afghanistan and served successful Iraq with the U.S. Army. Her husband, who besides served successful the American military, was killed successful Afghanistan.

“Please fto my work and sacrifice enactment arsenic a token to bring my household to safety,” she wrote successful a missive to U.S. officials. “My household does not person a accidental astatine beingness if they are near to the Taliban rule.”

David Zucchino and Alexandra E. Petri contributed reporting.

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