The U.S. government acknowledged Monday that Americans were left in Afghanistan who needed to be rescued, a fact that seemingly conflicts with a pledge President Biden made some 10 days earlier.
The last American flight left the Kabul airport Monday, officially ending an American war that started when Osama bin Laden – who lived in Afghanistan – directed terrorists to attack American targets, including the World Trade Center, on Sept. 11, 2001. Those attacks killed around 3,000 people. At the time, the Taliban controlled the country. Now, the Taliban is once again in power.
On Aug. 19, Biden said in an interview that "if there's American citizens left, we're going to stay until we get them all out."
But on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Americans remained on the ground as the last flight left.
"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," Blinken said.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said in a Monday news conference that no American citizens flew out on the last five airplanes to leave Kabul.
"We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out," McKenzie said. "But I think if we'd stayed another 10 days … we wouldn't have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out."
McKenzie added, "That doesn't mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and Afghans who want to leave – they will not be denied that opportunity. I think our Department of State is going to work that very hard in the days and weeks ahead."
McKenzie estimated the number of Americans left behind was in the "very low hundreds."
"I believe that we're going to be able to get those people out," he said.
Blinken, though, said it won't be "easy or rapid" to extricate Americans, legal permanent residents, and Afghans "who have worked with us."
"This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded," Blinken said. "It will take time to work through a new set of challenges. But we will stay at it."
The multi-week airlift was the largest non-combatant airlift in American history, with the U.S. and its allies flying out more than 120,000 people.
Even so, the Biden administration was criticized for leaving people behind – especially American citizens.
"What a disgrace," former Vice President Mike Pence wrote on social media. "Leaving Americans Behind is Not the American Way. Any President of the United States should know that. This President failed Americans and Afghan allies now stranded in Afghanistan. Joe Biden failed America."
What a disgrace.— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) August 31, 2021
Leaving Americans Behind is Not the American Way.
Any President of the United States should know that.
This President failed Americans and Afghan allies now stranded in Afghanistan
Joe Biden failed America https://t.co/W1m2yzaYBY
NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel labeled it a "humbling day" for the United States. He also noted that Great Britain and the Soviet Union previously fought wars in Afghanistan before withdrawing.
Engel called the withdrawal the "worst capitulation of western values in our lifetimes."
.@RichardEngel: "This was a humbling day for the United States, a day of humility for a world superpower. Afghanistan has been called the graveyard of empires...The [U.S.] fought [there] for 20 yrs and is now...withdrawing...in defeat. This is a difficult moment for the military" pic.twitter.com/pSw4ezkxq7— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) August 30, 2021
Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in his Tuesday podcast "The Briefing" that the Biden administration "is clearly hoping that Americans have a very short memory when it comes to this evacuation from Afghanistan" and the "horrible way the evacuation was conducted and the national humiliation that has come to the United States."
Mohler also questioned the validity of public polling that shows Americans wanted out of Afghanistan. He called surveys on the issue "superficial."
"If those same Americans were to be asked, 'Do you just want to withdraw from Afghanistan and basically allow the Taliban to take over in a matter of like 11 days, returning the situation in Afghanistan to the status quo before America invested so much of its honor, so much of its treasure, so many of its prized military forces there in Afghanistan?' – Is that really what Americans want?"
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Handout
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.