The United States was unable to evacuate U.S.-sponsored journalists from Afghanistan despite the Biden administration promising to get them out of the country.
“It is absolutely disgraceful the U.S. State Department claimed they evacuated their local employees when in reality they abandoned hundreds of USAGM journalists and their families. Some of these journalists were given express assurances by the Biden Administration that they would be treated as locally employed staff – but were not,” Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul said in a statement on Tuesday.
“My office was working with one of these journalists and tried for two weeks to get attention brought to his case so he, his wife, and his infant child could be saved – but our pleas were ignored. I am calling on the president and the State Department to rapidly find ways to get these people to safety and away from the threats President Biden and Secretary Blinken enabled,” he added.
Fox News confirmed that Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists were unable to get aboard the last flights from Afghanistan on Monday, after national security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that groups prioritized by the U.S. government made it to evacuation planes.
A group of about 500 people, including Afghan families, are now stuck in the country after attempting to get through the gates at the Kabul airport.
The U.S. had been warned that there were about 600 people employed by U.S.-sponsored news organizations under the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) in the country, and nearly 70 U.S. lawmakers even sent a letter to President Biden on Aug. 25 urging him to get the USAGM employees and their families out of the country before the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
“We stress to you that the 550 USAGM employees and their families are no different from journalists you have already doggedly worked to evacuate,” the letter stated. “They have been and continue to be a target for the Taliban due to their association with the United States government.”
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty President Jamie Fly added in an interview with the Washington Post that several senior administration officials had reassured his organization that the journalists would make it through the gate at Kabul airport. But that didn’t happen.
Fly said he was even at one point on the phone with senior military officials to get the group onto planes, but the message never got to the soldiers at the gate.
“You would have expected that the United States government, which helped create the space for journalism and civil society in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, would have tried to do more over the last several weeks to assist journalists who made a decision that it was best for them to leave the country,” Fly said. “But they consistently failed to do that.”
USAGM also worked with the State Department to charter planes to bring the people to Spain, but then the suicide bombing occurred at the airport last week and the Pentagon canceled scheduled charters.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin has also worked to assist the journalists, and told the Washington Post, “It is disheartening that so many professional journalists employed by American-funded news organizations have now been left behind, with their families.”
“These Afghan allies are among the people most endangered at the present moment for the good work they have done over two decades. Urgent attention must now turn to finding the best way to get them to safety,” he said.
RFE/RL journalists have endured repeated death threats from the Taliban in recent years, and four journalists with the media company have been killed by suicide bombers since 2016.
When approached for comment, the White House directed Fox News to Biden’s comments on Tuesday, when he said the U.S. is committed to helping the remaining Americans in the country.
“For those remaining Americans there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out,” he said.