‘Dozens’ of troops’ family members still in Afghanistan, Pentagon estimates

Vets groups plead for more action from White House on Afghanistan evacuations


The Defense Department is trying to compile a master list of relatives of U.S. troops who may still be in Afghanistan and wanting to leave, per a Nov. 4 memo from the Pentagon’s policy chief.

Over the course of the 20-year conflict, a handful of Afghan immigrants have joined the U.S. military or taken jobs as DoD civilians, while much of their families stayed behind.

“We believe it’s certainly ― most likely in the dozens,” spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday.

While much of the State Department effort to evacuate Afghans has focused on interpreters, Afghan troops and others who have worked with U.S. troops, the memo is the first time DoD has specifically named family members as a group of interest.

State has created a Coordinator for Afghanistan Relocation Efforts office to help facilitate transport out of the country and to the U.S.

The memo encourages military or civilian personnel to send a note to a DoD email address created specifically for referrals of Afghan nationals.

“We understand that many U.S. military personnel and DoD civilian employees may also have extended family remaining in Afghanistan,” Colin Kahl wrote in the memo. “DoD recognizes that these extended family members also have a connection to the United States; we will continue to assist State/CARE as they develop mechanisms that may facilitate the safe departures for such individuals from Afghanistan in the future.”

The memo, first reported by NBC News, was not posted online or sent through media channels after its signing. Kirby told reporters that it was distributed to the military departments “and we felt that that was the best communication vehicle.”

Calculating the number of U.S. citizens and Afghans who are eligible for extraction through the State Department has been a challenge.

While tens of thousands were evacuated during the final days of U.S. troop presence in Kabul, many more special immigrant visa applicants and others were not able to get to Kabul and into the airport in time to be flown out.

State has pledged to continue those extractions, with help from DoD and private groups.

On Tuesday, a group of Afghan pilots were flown out of neighboring Tajikistan, Reuters reported.

Kirby confirmed that as of Wednesday, they are being processed in the United Arab Emirates before their eventual arrival in the U.S.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT



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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.