The narrative from the Biden administration on the withdrawal of Americans from Afghanistan continues to fall apart.
There remain hundreds of Americans still in Afghanistan and one called pleading for help and had the phone hung up on him, The Intercept reported.
A former U.S. Army translator, Wafa, who became a U.S. citizen in 2019, is among those most endangered by the fall of the Afghan government: people who cooperated with U.S. forces and are now likely to be treated as traitors by the Taliban, Afghanistan’s new rulers. The home of Wafa’s family in the city of Herat had already been visited by longtime neighbors who turned out to be covertly working for the Taliban; the neighbors were said to be searching for him.
The abrupt departure of American troops and closure of the Kabul airport left Wafa, who fears violent retribution for his work with the U.S., stuck hiding with his wife in Kabul and looking for a way out.
When Wafa called the State Department on August 29, the deadline for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was still expected to be two days away. An official picked up Wafa’s call and gave him instructions on what to do.
He said he was reassured by the confident tone of the person he spoke to when he called.
“They told me that they would not leave any citizen in the country, they would get everyone out,” Wafa said. “They told me to take shelter and not go to the airport and to wait for further directions on what to do.”
The official instructed Wafa to wait for another call with more instructions but, after 24 hours, that call did not come.
The next day Wafa was stunned to see Biden on television touting the successful withdrawal from Afghanistan as he sat, waiting to be rescued.
He called the State Department and informed them that he, like others that he knew, was still stranded in Afghanistan.
“I told them President Biden is saying on the news that everyone is out, but I’m still here,” he said. “I have my passport in my hand right now, and no one has given me any way to get out.”
The official asked Wafa to hold on and after some minutes he came back
“At this time, we have no other information to share with you on steps to take,” he said the official said. “We can only advise you to shelter in place for the time being.”
“Thank you for calling the U.S. Department of State,” he remembered the official said, and then he hung up on him.
The administration acknowledged that it believed some American citizens were left behind in Afghanistan.
“We believe there are still a small number of Americans — under 200 and likely closer to 100 — who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “We’re trying to determine exactly how many.”
Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said on Monday that no United States citizens were on the last five jets that left the Kabul airport.
“We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out,” the general said. “That activity ended probably about 12 hours before our exit, although we continued the outreach and would have been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute. But none of them made it to the airport and were able to be accommodated.”
“The military phase of this operation has ended,” the general said. “The diplomatic sequel to that will now begin.”
But Wafa does not have any faith in diplomacy.
“I can’t trust the Taliban, they are my enemy and the enemy of all Americans,” he said. “They proved that over the last 20 years. I don’t know how the U.S. government can trust them to negotiate anything. But if I have to take the risk of them negotiating, I will do it if that is the only thing that can allow my wife and me to leave the country.”
And he said that he will not leave his wife behind because he is frightened of what the Taliban is going to do.
“I cannot leave her here,” he said. “We are afraid that when everyone else leaves the country, the Taliban will show their real face.”