A senior State Department official has told reporters in a briefing that the U.S. left behind “the majority” of Afghan interpreters, linguists, and fixers during the withdrawal effort that finished on Monday. Many had applied for a Special Immigrant Visa, a scheme that allows Afghans who worked with the military for at least two years to come to the U.S. as a permanent resident, but have faced maddeningly slow processing times. During the evacuation push, efforts to get them out were also stymied by threats from the Islamic State and Taliban checkpoints around Kabul airport.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said last week that the U.S. has so far been able to evacuate about 7,000 SIV applicants. But those who were still in Kabul on Aug. 15 when the Taliban invaded, along with their families, may number as many as 100,000, the unnamed senior official said. Many made desperate pleas for help, like a 36-year-old interpreter who helped rescue then-Senator Joe Biden in 2008 when he was stranded in a remote Afghanistan valley during a snowstorm. “Don’t forget me here,” the man, who is in hiding from the Taliban, said.