Afghans who fought alongside Americans are trapped in Afghanistan because panicked officials at the U.S. embassy “destroyed” their passports as the Taliban closed in on Kabul, a statement from a New Jersey congressman unveiled this week revealed.
As the Taliban entered Kabul and successfully pushed for the unconditional surrender of the Afghan government and military on Sunday, U.S. personnel was still evacuating the American Embassy and reportedly getting rid of material deemed sensitive by burning and other means.
The Afghan passports submitted to the embassy by individuals applying for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) reserved for Afghans (and their families) who face Taliban reprisals for working for the American government and military were likely among the documents demolished by U.S. personnel who feared that the jihadis would ultimately overrun their sprawling workplace.
According to a tweet written by Puck News’s Julia Loffe early this week, the office of Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), an Afghanistan veteran who serves as a member of the House Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, issued a statement revealing that the embassy had destroyed the Afghan allies’ passports.
“For SIV applicants: Visa and passport appointments at the Embassy have been canceled, and passports that were in the Embassy’s possession have been destroyed,” the statement read. “Currently, it is not possible to provide any further services in Afghanistan.”
According to @AndyKimNJ’s congressional office, Afghan passports that were submitted to the US embassy for visa processing have been destroyed. (Remember all that sensitive document burning? H/t to @kgilsinan for the info) pic.twitter.com/KneVItxVVb
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) August 17, 2021
After the Taliban takeover, U.S. President Joe Biden deployed over 5,000 troops to help evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan allies, including those waiting for SIVs, stranded in Afghanistan.
However, the U.S. State Department advised the Afghans who had their passports “destroyed” by the American embassy to “find shelter and wait for instructions,” reported the office of Congressman Kim, who has been very involved in helping U.S. citizens and locals get out of Afghanistan.
“They should not go to the airport until they are called to do so and should follow the instructions carefully,” the statement added.
On Thursday, the Pentagon made it clear that Afghans must have proper credentials to board an evacuation flight. Accessing the airport reportedly remains chaotic and dangerous.
The State Department would reportedly continue with the administrative processing of SIVs.
“Applicants will [eventually] continue to be notified about the status of their cases,” the statement added
Nevertheless, currently, “We are unable to provide information … as to the status of their cases,” it continued, suggesting the Afghans who lost their passports are stranded for now.
As the Taliban closed in on the capital of Kabul, home to the U.S. embassy and the Afghan government, a manager of the American facility “directed employees to incinerators and other disposal sites for documents and equipment,” likely including the Afghan passports, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported.
“Please also include items with embassy or agency logos, American flags or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts,” the embassy manager said to staff in a memo.
According to the Associated Press (AP), smoke was visible coming from the American Embassy’s roof in Kabul on Sunday, suggesting that diplomats were still burning sensitive material before the Taliban fighters,who were already inside the capital, could overrun the facility.
On Thursday, the Daily Beast acknowledged:
America’s immigration process for Afghans, the promises it represented, and the personnel who staffed it have mostly disappeared, replaced by a new one enforced instead by Taliban checkpoints, a small number of diplomats, and outnumbered American soldiers and Marines.
In its wake, immigration lawyers like [Joshua] Goldstein [who has developed a reputation among the Afghan American community] are left with too many questions about how these gatekeepers of a newly improvised immigration process will decide who stays and who goes and what, if anything, families and their representatives can do about it.
The U.S. military has made it clear that evacuating American citizens is its “first priority.” Up to 100,000 Afghans, namely those who aided the U.S. war effort and their families, are trying to get out of the country. Meanwhile, some estimates have placed the number of Americans stuck in Afghanistan at no more than 15,000.