US Troops ID'd Family Members Trapped in Afghanistan, but None Qualified for Evacuation

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A Marine carries an Afghan evacuee's luggage as they prepare to board an airplane in Qatar.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Leonard Bradley, an Evacuation Control Center Marine, carries an Afghan evacuee’s luggage as they board a plane at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Sept. 1, 2021. (Lance Cpl. Kyle Jia/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

About 60 service members reported up the chain of command that they still had family members stranded in Afghanistan following a Pentagon memo Nov. 2 requesting the information.

None of those family members qualified for assisted evacuation by the State Department, according to the Pentagon's top spokesman John Kirby.

"They were all evaluated and thus far, in the evaluation, none have been determined to be eligible for parolee status," Kirby said Monday, referencing the government's term for Afghans who qualify for evacuation as direct relatives of U.S. citizens or residents.

The Pentagon, which has successfully helped evacuate other relatives, did not say how many family members the State Department reviews this month affected. The numbers have been a shifting target since the complete U.S. military withdrawal on Aug. 30. 

Many of the troops who have attempted to get relatives evacuated were Afghan interpreters who immigrated to the U.S. and enlisted. The State Department is in charge of determining whether Afghans qualify for “parole” and evacuation. They must be the spouse or child under 21 years old of a U.S. citizen or resident, according to the agency’s criteria.

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In October, veterans groups and Congress worked frantically to help at least 48 service members in the Army and Marine Corps who had 509 relatives stuck in the country.

The military helped evacuate 122,000 people, including 5,400 Americans, between July and the end of August, after the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed and suicide bombers waged a deadly terrorist attack that killed 13 troops.

But the remaining family members have been a source of dismay for those who served alongside Afghans during the two-decade war and felt the U.S. owed them a debt that could be repaid by an evacuation.

On Monday, Kirby provided some of the first figures on the families of troops evacuated from the country.

The military helped 62 service members get 50 family members out of Afghanistan on U.S. government flights before the military withdrawal was completed in August.

"More were probably gotten out on privately funded NGO flights, but I don't have the numbers for that," Kirby said.

A total of 10 family members have been relocated since the end of August, he said.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at travis.tritten@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten. 

Related: Troops with Family Trapped in Afghanistan Get Extraction Help Offer from Pentagon

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