State Department’s evacuation program ignored 325,000 emails: A scathing new report highlights disastrous attempt to get allies out of Kabul
- Inspector General’s report provides an update on visas for Afghan allies
- It says 325,000 emails to the application address were unopened in May
- President Biden vowed not to leave behind Afghans helping US troops
- But the report says a legal processing time of nine months is not being met
- Inadequate staffing and lack of planning are to blame, it says
- The backlog amounted to 322,000 people in May
A new report reveals how thousands of Afghans who have risked their lives to work with the US armed forces continue to face delays and bureaucratic hurdles as they seek safety in the United States.
The State Department inspector general reveals that in May, nearly nine months after US troops left Afghanistan, 325,000 emails were left unopened in the mailbox for special visa applications.
It is the latest evidence that Washington was unprepared for the sheer number of Afghans who needed help to flee the Taliban.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly pledged to do everything in his power to rescue interpreters and others who have served “shoulder-to-shoulder” with US troops.
But the review of the Special Immigrant Visa program in October reveals a litany of failures caused by the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It reported that while the State Department had taken action to address the deficiencies reported in 2020, it had not gone far enough, rendering it unable to handle a wave of applications during and after last year’s exit. can.
Thousands of desperate people laid siege to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul last August after the Taliban took the city. The US promised to help Afghans, such as translators, who had worked with US troops, but thousands are still waiting for visas
A new report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of State finds that the backlog of people waiting for special immigrant visas has increased in the eight months since the US withdrawal, and hundreds of thousands of emails have gone unopened
“Inadequate human resources, lack of planning and coordination, and technological system challenges have resulted in long application processing times and prevented the ministry from meeting the regulatory target of nine months for Afghan SIV processing,” the statement said. .
“The long lead times of applicants have meant that vulnerable Afghan allies have not made it to safety in the United States.”
Although the unit went from eight personnel to 42 after Biden announced his withdrawal, it was still unable to cope, the report said.
It mentioned the backlog of email messages.
As of May 2022, the email account had more than 325,000 unread messages, and [Office of the Inspector General] noted that [National Visa Center] employees were still opening unread emails dated August 2021,” it reads.
The Afghan Evac Coalition emphasized the findings and said previous recommendations had not been properly implemented.
“We CAN and MUST do better to improve the SIV process – lives are literally at stake,” it said in a tweet.
“We need more coordination and oversight to make sure we keep the promise we’ve made as a country.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s department is under fire for not doing more
At the same time, the number of people applying for a special visa has increased.
The report cites figures from the State Department showing that some 27,000 people had signed up a year ago; in May the number was almost 62,000.
If we add all their relatives, the backlog has grown to more than 300,000 people.
“Despite staffing adjustments, the department is currently facing an even greater application backlog, in part due to the increase in applications following the events of August 2021,” the ministry said.
According to the department, as of May 2022, there were 61,888 pending main applications and an estimated 259,930 additional eligible family members of those main applicants, for a total of approximately 322,000 estimated Afghan SIV applicants.
“The backlog of the most important applications has been steadily increasing since at least October 2021.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But a spokesperson told the Washington Times“The department will continue to ensure that Afghan SIV applications are processed as quickly as possible in accordance with legal requirements, while safeguarding US national security.”