WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is stepping up efforts to evacuate family members of US troops out of Afghanistan, building a database of the dozen trapped there.
On Thursday, more than two months after the US military withdrew completely from Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl admitted a note Ask all U.S. service members and DOD civilians with immediate family members who need help leaving Afghanistan to send an email to his office.
The memo, received by NBC News, instructs military personnel and civilians from the Department of Defense to send an email to a specific address with the subject “immediate family member”. In addition to names, the emails must contain passport, contact and other personal information about the family members in order for them to be included in the database.
According to defense officials, there are still several dozen immediate family members of US soldiers in Afghanistan. This includes children, sisters and brothers and parents. There are still well over 100 extended family members in Afghanistan, but it is not clear how many of them want to leave the country, officials said.
So far, the individual military services, according to the defense, have been tracking cases of US military personnel whose families are still stuck in Afghanistan.
The branches will continue their efforts, but a defense official said the memo shows “a more conscious effort at the DOD level” to track how many people are affected. The official said there is a real dynamic in getting immediate family members out. “There is an increased desire to ensure that we take every situation into account in this push,” the official said, adding that they are trying to “expand the reach” to ensure that DOD staff and their families receive help.
The official said that once the information is consolidated, the Pentagon will work with the State Department to extract family members who want to leave the country. The US military will not play a role in actually getting people out of the country, the official said.
The Pentagon does not have a good account of how many DOD civilians still have immediate family members in Afghanistan, officials said.
Many of the soldiers whose families are still in Afghanistan were born in Afghanistan, defense officials say, and some served as interpreters during the war and moved to the US and registered before the US military withdrawal.
Members of Congress have urged the Pentagon to do more to help service members whose families are stuck in Afghanistan. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in September asking them to get involved.
“In the past month, I’ve been contacted by hundreds of Texans desperately trying to get friends and family out of the country safely,” he wrote. “This includes family members of several Texans currently serving in the military.”
“The federal government has turned its back on them. If we abandon the families of our soldiers and soldiers in Afghanistan, they will certainly be slaughtered by the Taliban, ”he wrote.