Chaos, confusion and terror have marked the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal over the past week, with Americans and Afghan allies pleading for help escaping Taliban-controlled Kabul and uncertainty at the city’s U.S.-held airport.
And with special immigrant visa applicants cut off from escape by Taliban checkpoints, retired Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Rogers told Fox News Tuesday that non-government organizations have been working through unofficial channels to try and help.
“Everyone is pissed about this even being necessary,” he said. “But if the president doesn’t want to step up and lead, someone else will.”
Last week, Rogers helped raise the alarm that his former U.S.-contracted Afghan interpreter was trapped in Kabul, hiding from the Taliban and hoping to make it out of the country.
In this Aug. 19, 2021, file photo, Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. After the Taliban takeover, employees of the collapsed government, civil society activists and women are among the at-risk Afghans who have gone into hiding or are staying off the streets. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
He was still there as of Tuesday, but Rogers said he’s now in touch with non-government sources who heard of his plight and reached out to the retired Marine to try and coordinate an escape.
“It’s embarrassing on an international scale that we are even in this situation,” Rogers said. “It’s insulting to not even have a number of Americans left to get out.”
The Pentagon said Tuesday that it had evacuated roughly 4,000 American passport holders and their families and expected to transport more in the coming days. But it remains unclear exactly how many Americans are still in the country – and there are tens of thousands of SIV applicants and refugees whom the Taliban does not seem inclined to let leave.
“During a meeting this morning with the G-7 leaders, the president conveyed that our mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in an afternoon news briefing. “He confirmed we are currently on pace to finish by Aug. 31 and provided an update on progress in evacuating Americans who want to come home, third-country nationals, and Afghans who were our allies during the war.”
“He also made clear that with each day of operations on the ground, we have added risk to our troops with increasing threats from ISIS-K, and that completion of the mission by Aug. 31 depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport,” she added. “In addition, the president has asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timeline should that become necessary.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has said that after Aug. 31, the Taliban “won’t let Afghans be taken out” of the country on evacuation flights. And he said that the Taliban were already not allowing Afghan nationals to pass through checkpoints on their way to the U.S.-held airport.
Although the Taliban has claimed it is offering “amnesty” to Afghans who worked with U.S. and NATO forces during the past 20 years of war, sources in Kabul tell Fox News that militants are going door to door, seeking out high-level Afghan officials, interpreters and foreigners, killing them or dragging them away to unknown locations.
Last week, Rogers’ interpreter said three former Afghan National Army officers were found in their hideout, captured and hanged. And another former military contractor in the United Kingdom told Fox News Saturday that two of his Afghan colleagues had been killed in a two-day span.
Rogers shared a text message exchange Tuesday summing up the situation:
“Let’s pray for good days,” the interpreter wrote.
A few lines down, Rogers responded with a prayer.
“Lord I pray a blessing of grace and guidance for all who are stuck in the grand conflict,” he wrote. “I pray you watch over your flock and pave a way for Americans and friends like [name withheld for safety concerns] from behind enemy lines. Amen.”
The interpreter, who is not being identified due to concerns about his safety, was still in hiding in Kabul Tuesday.
But he warned Rogers in another message, “They are still searching for us and government officials.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.