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News Sep 5, 2021 7:26 PM EST

Veteran-led rescue groups claim Biden Administration underestimates number of those left behind in Afghanistan

"The problem is, it doesn't include families. They're lowballing the numbers."

Veteran-led rescue groups claim Biden Administration underestimates number of those left behind in Afghanistan
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Following the conclusion of the chaotic and deadly withdrawal of US troops and evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan, veteran-led rescue groups are claiming that the number of those left behind are far higher than the Biden Administration says.

The Biden administration is estimating that no more than 200 US citizens were left behind in Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press.

These veteran-led groups are saying that the total doesn't take into account green card holders and their families, as well as those who did not register with the US embassy prior to its closing, and those who expressed concerns and doubt about leaving family members and loved ones behind in the Taliban-controlled country.

"The fear is that nobody is looking for them," said Howard Shen, spokesman for the Cajon Valley Union School District in the San Diego area that is in contact with one green card family stuck in Afghanistan.

"They are thousands of miles away under an oppressive regime and we're leaving them behind," he said. "That's not right."

Biden as assured those nearly 200 American citizens that they will be able to get out, though it is unclear how or when this would occur without a military presence in the country.

Secretary of State Antony Blinked has added that Biden's promise extends to green card holders, though the administration is unclear on how many are left tin the country.

According to the Associated Press, an undersecretary of state said this pas week that all American citizens and permanent residents will be contacted once arrangements have been made to get them out.

Mike Jason runs Allied Airlift 21, which was created to help get permanent residents and American citizens out of Afghanistan. Jason told the Associated Press that his group has been in contact with 78 green card holders, but adds that the number doesn't include family members, which he believes brings the number up to 400 people.

He noted that the number of US citizens remaining in Afghanistan is misleading, due to that number not including potential green card family members.

Allied Airlift 21 has reportedly identified 45 American citizens stuck in Afghanistan, and has documents pointing to more than 250 family members stuck here as well.

Some veteran-led groups claim that the government estimate is off because it only includes those that registered with the US Embassy in Kabul, a move that was voluntary.

Iraq war veteran and part of Digital Dunkirk, Alex Plitsas, told the Associated Press that he had been contacted by six American citizens in one day last week, all of which did not register with the now shuttered embassy.

Plitsas says the true number of American citizens left behind could be off by hundreds of people.

"Those names are starting to trickle out now," said Plitsas. "I expect that number to rise significantly."

He has also been in contact with 100 green card holders who have been urgently trying to get out of the country over the last two weeks.

"They live here," he said. "They're our folks."

Representative Darrell Issa, who's office has been trying to evacuate an 80-year-old couple that are US citizens from San Diego County, said that he believes the number of US citizens looking to leave Afghanistan is closer to 500 people, which includes both those who clearly stated that they want to leave, and those who expressed concern over "leaving behind family members to die."

Issa added that when you add in family members of those citizens, the number of people could be as high as 1,000.

"Unless we continue and get the rest of our American citizens, and all those otherwise eligible out, we won't have done our job," Issa said.

Representative Don Bacon said that the Biden administration needs to stop limiting their tally of those stuck in Afghanistan to US citizens, and that it needs to give a full accounting of those left behind.

"The problem is, it doesn't include families," he said. "They're lowballing the numbers."

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