Pentagon finally steps up to rescue family members of US service members trapped in Afghanistan, but leaves extended family in dust


The news cycle may have moved on, but the Biden administration is still cleaning up their mess.

More than two months after the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, the Biden administration is reaching out to Defense Department personnel seeking information on immediate family members who were left stranded in Afghanistan.

What are the details?

Colin Kahl, undersecretary of Defense for policy, issued an internal memo last Thursday requesting any U.S. service member or Defense Department civilian employee to contact his office if they have an immediate family member trapped in Afghanistan.

The memo states:

Any U.S. military personnel or DoD civilian employees with immediate family members still in Afghanistanwho desire assistance departing should contact the [Office of the Under Secretary ofDefense, Policy] Afghan Referrals mailbox directly at [EMAIL ADDRESS] and include “DoD Immediate Family Member” in the subject line. Please be prepared to provide immediate family member names, contact information, their location, passport information, and national identification card (tazkera) information o the above mailbox.

The letter emphasized that such evacuations would not include extended family members.

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

How many family members are left there?

According to NBC News, “several dozen” immediate family members of U.S. service members remain trapped in Afghanistan — including children, sisters, brothers, and parents — in addition to over 100 extended family members.

More from NBC News:

[A defense] said once the information is consolidated, the Pentagon will work with the State Department to extract family members who want to leave. The U.S. military will not have a role in actually getting the people out of the country, the official said.

The Pentagon does not have a good accounting of how many DOD civilians still have immediate family members in Afghanistan, the officials said.

In September, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wrote Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging them to rescue the family members of U.S. service members, and warned what may happen if they do not.

“If we abandon the family members of our service men and women in Afghanistan, they will certainly be slaughtered by the Taliban,” McCaul wrote.

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