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Tag: afghanistan

Right-Wing Media Won’t Stop Lying About Afghan ‘Hanged’ From Chopper


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple right-wing media figures, outlets, and social media users falsely claimed that a viral video showing a man in Afghanistan suspended from a helicopter was an execution by the Taliban. Other footage of the flight showed the man alive and well, and reportedly he was attempting to fix a flag.

This narrative is just one example of multiple falsehoods spread by conservatives to attack President Joe Biden following his decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

As Media Matters previously wrote, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired the footage on the August 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity, falsely claiming it showed the Taliban dangling a hanged man from a Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan. But Hannity's claim had been debunked before his show aired.

Conservative media personalities and politicians — including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) — also repeated the false claim on Twitter, using it to criticize the Biden administration's decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Cruz later deleted his tweet, writing that the information in it "may be inaccurate."

A tweet by Rep. Jason Smith that reads "On the day that we see innocent people hanging from an American helicopter, the Biden Administration decides to pull out early leaving behind hundreds of Americans and even more innocents to die at the hands of the Taliban. It's unacceptable and heartbreaking."

A Fox anchor along with multiple contributors and guests have also engaged with the false claim, as have other right-wing cable channels like One America News Network and Newsmax, other media organizations and users on fringe social media platforms.

Fox News and Fox Business

  • On August 30, a day before Hannity himself pushed this lie, Hannity guest Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said that "we had a video today of one of our Blackhawk helicopters with somebody hanging from it as it moves through the sky."
  • Also on August 30, guest Elliot Ackerman said on The Ingraham Angle that "we just saw the Taliban flying a Blackhawk helicopter above Kandahar with a dead body hanging from its bottom."
  • On August 30, Fox Business guest Stephen Yates said: "We have today the Taliban hanging someone from a helicopter."
  • On August 31, Fox Business guest Sam Brown said, "We're seeing the reality of the Taliban now flying Blackhawk helicopters over Kabul, hanging their enemy."
  • Later the same day, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich said on The Five, "They are hanging people from our helicopters." Pavlich repeated this later in the show, saying the Taliban have "been using" weapons left behind "to execute our allies who helped us on the ground. … They hung a guy with a helicopter."
  • That evening, Fox Business anchor David Asman was discussing the helicopters U.S. forces left behind and said: "At least one was used yesterday in horrific fashion to hang a human being. We don't know the circumstances of that. We don't know who that person was that was hanging from the helicopter. But in one of the typically sick dimension of the way that these -- the Taliban think, or whoever was piloting that helicopter, that's how they used it."
  • And on September 1, Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said on Fox Business, "The image of our Blackhawk helicopter flying around Kabul with the body of what appears to be a dead person hanging from the bottom of it -- those images get seared into people's minds, and they never forget it."

Newsmax

  • On the August 31 edition of the morning show Wake Up America, Newsmax's Alex Kraemer showed and read a tweet claiming that the Taliban "are now hanging innocent civilians from [helicopters] for the world to see." Later in the show, co-host Rob Finnertysaid: "We saw someone hanging from a helicopter on video. This person was dead."
  • During Newsmax's August 31 midday show John Bachman Now, the host said there are "U.S. Blackhawks reportedly being flown by the Taliban with people hanging from them."
  • Later that day on American Agenda, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield said the Taliban were "flying people hanging from Blackhawk helicopters yesterday." Later in the show, former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller referenced people in Kabul risking being "flown around the city hanging by their neck off of a helicopter."
  • On September 1, Finnerty repeated this lie on Wake Up America, saying: "We saw somebody hanging from a U.S. military helicopter over Kabul just a couple of days ago."

One America News Network

  • On August 31, the host of OAN's In Focus with Stephanie Hamill said: "There's video circulating online of them in an American helicopter with a man hanging by his neck off of the helicopter." Her guest, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), replied: "That's sick. That is sick."
  • Later on Real America, host Dan Ball previewed the video he claimed shows "the Taliban flying one of our Blackhawk choppers in Kandahar with a body hanging from it" with a long-winded warning about graphic content. He added: "Now, have we vetted it all out? Can I confirm it happened yesterday? I don't know when it happened. It's all over the web. It's from Kandahar. I can't read what that says, but we're getting this from multiple sources of folks that were there on the ground. They confirm it's one of our choppers, they confirm it's from Afghanistan. I don't know who's hanging there, but -- you want to see this stuff come over here? And I'm not trying to fearmonger one bit. I'm keeping it real, folks."

Other right-wing outlets and social media

  • On August 30, Gateway Pundit shared a screenshot of the video on its website along with tweets containing versions of the video, incorrectly claiming that "today the Islamists used US helicopters to hang 'traitors' in Kandahar Afghanistan" and argued that the Taliban was "openly mocking" the U.S.
  • On August 31, the New York Post published the video on its website along with an article that said "it is not immediately clear exactly how [the person in the video] is attached or if he is alive." The piece then quoted "some journalists" who it says "insisted that it showed someone who had been hanged — and then paraded in the skies."
  • The video of the helicopter and screenshots from the video also spread on several fringe right-wing social media platforms between August 30 and September 1, including Gab, 4chan, and Patriots.win. This content was also shared widely among right-wing users on the messaging app Telegram. Many of these posts criticized the Biden administration, with one Patriots.win user claiming, falsely, that the Taliban was "flying [a] Biden-provided Blackhawk helicopter…while hanging someone from it." This post quoted a tweet stating that "it's an absolute shitfest to see the Taliban now actually flying US BlackHawk helicopters, hanging people by the throat from them!! The American President will never be forgiven for this!!"
Research contributions from Leo Fernandez and Bobby Lewis

In Afghanistan Biden Did What Was Right, Not What Was Easy

If Joe Biden were a typical politician, his choice on Afghanistan would have been easy. Political wisdom says you should never accept consequences today that you can postpone until after the next election, if not longer. Deceptive gimmicks and clever evasions are always preferable to painful solutions that pay off only in the long run.

Biden could have persisted in prolonging the stalemate. He could have quietly expanded our troop presence to hold the Taliban at bay. He could have blithely accepted the deaths of more American troops — and more Afghan civilians — to maintain the status quo.

Most Americans wouldn't have noticed or cared about the cost of continuing the war. His own party's progressives would have groused, but their priorities lie mainly in domestic policy, where Biden has been fairly accommodating. Republicans would not have made much of the issue.

But the president whose political skills earned him 36 years in the Senate and eight in the vice presidency chose to act with statesmanlike foresight. When it came to our longest military conflict, he could not countenance the option embraced by his three immediate predecessors.

George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump failed to win the war and refused to end it. Instead, they dragged it out, each leaving the problem to the next occupant of the White House. They wimped out to avoid being accused of wimpiness. They put their political interests ahead of the lives and limbs of American service members.

Biden refused to avoid the inevitable any longer — in the full knowledge that the consequences would most likely be ugly and highly visible. He was the first president to act as though the buck really did stop with him.

His Tuesday address to the nation was a model of realism. He found two important lessons from our ill-starred effort. "First, we must set missions with clear achievable goals, not ones we'll never reach," he declared. "And second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interests of the United States of America." Neither principle could justify staying in Afghanistan.

Critics accuse him of weakness, but there was nothing weak about his resolve to put a stop to a hopeless war. In the face of furious denunciations by people whose terrible judgment helped lead us into the deadly quagmires that have bogged us down for so long, he was bracingly immovable.

Biden understands better than his critics what the options were: Get out and accept the defeat of the Kabul regime or expand our military role to push back against an enemy that had been steadily gaining ground.

As he noted in his Tuesday address, the Trump administration had signed an agreement committing us to leave by May 1, in exchange for the Taliban's agreement not to attack our forces. Biden extended the deadline by four months, and the Taliban chose not to renege on its obligation. But any further postponement — or renunciation of the deal — would have meant a renewed and wider war.

It is understandable that critics would find fault with the chaotic, deadly, and heartbreaking endgame. But the possibility that Biden might have managed our departure better doesn't mean the departure was a mistake.

The shockingly rapid collapse of the government only proved how completely we failed in Afghanistan. You might say that the structure we created turned out to be a Potemkin village, but that would be too generous. A Potemkin village doesn't disintegrate overnight.

The Afghan military got vast amounts of money, training and equipment from the U.S., not for one year or five years but for 20. It could call on American bombers, helicopter gunships and drones to incinerate its foes. It enjoyed an embarrassment of riches. In resources, the Taliban were grossly outmatched.

But they had the most vital asset any fighting force can have: motivation. It was something our Afghan partners lacked. In the end, they didn't really lose to the Taliban; they forfeited.

The late William Safire once recalled that as a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, one of his tasks was to say, "Mr. President — Do the popular thing! Take the easy way!" Nixon could then tell the public, "Some of my aides have suggested that I do the popular thing, that I should take the easy way. But I have rejected such counsel."

For a long time, we've had politicians who happily accepted such counsel. Biden is a different kind of leader.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Still Lying: Trump Claims Afghan Departure Left '$85 Billion' In Weapons

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Monday, August 30, former President Donald Trump claimed that the Taliban — now in control of Afghanistan — has seized $83 billion worth of U.S. weapons. But that claim has been fact-checked and refuted by the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler.

In his August 30 statement, Trump said, "Never in history has a withdrawal from war been handled so badly or incompetently as the Biden Administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan. In addition to the obvious, ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost. If it is not handed back, we should either go in w/unequivocal Military force and get it, or at least bomb the hell out of it."

Trump failed to mention, of course, that the Biden Administration was following the Trump/Mike Pompeo plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, although at a slower pace. Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted the U.S. out of Afghanistan even sooner than President Joe Biden. While Biden wanted to withdraw troops before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Trump planned to remove them during the spring of 2021.

Kessler, discussing Trump's claims that the Taliban has seized $83 million worth of U.S. weapons, explains, "We don't normally pay much attention to claims made by the former president, as he mostly just riffs golden oldies. But this is a new claim. A version of this claim also circulates widely on right-leaning social media — that somehow, the Taliban has ended up with $83 billion in U.S. weaponry. Trump, as usual, rounds the number up."

Kessler adds, "The $83 billion number is not invented out of whole cloth. But it reflects all the money spent to train, equip and house the Afghan military and police — so weapons are just a part of that. At this point, no one really knows the value of the equipment that was seized by the Taliban."

The Post journalist notes that the $83 million figure "comes from an estimate in the July 30 quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for all spending on the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund since the U.S. invasion in 2001."

According to Kessler, "The $83 billion spent on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) goes back two decades, including almost $19 billion spent between 2002 and 2009."

Applying the Washington Post's "Pinocchio Test" to Trump, Kessler breaks down that $83 million some more.

Kessler notes, "U.S. military equipment was given to Afghan security forces over two decades. Tanks, vehicles, helicopters and other gear fell into the hands of the Taliban when the U.S.-trained force quickly collapsed…. But the value of the equipment is not more than $80 billion. That's the figure for all of the money spent on training and sustaining the Afghan military over 20 years. The equipment portion of that total is about $24 billion — certainly not small change — but the actual value of the equipment in the Taliban's hands is probably much less than even that amount."

Carlson Accuses Biden Of Importing Afghan Rapist — But Border Officials Flagged Perp

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

On Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has a history of making racist and xenophobic comments, attacked the effort to rescue Afghan refugees and bring them to America as a program to "import some rapists." He also threw in a white supremacist talking point to suggest that the Biden administration was using the refugee crisis as part of a plan to "change our country."

Carlson's smear was based on an article published in the Washington Times earlier that day.

Discussing the U.S. evacuation of Afghan refugees from Kabul, Carlson said during a segment of his program Tucker Carlson Tonight, "So they look around and they say, Hmm, how can we make this a little bit worse? I have an idea, let's import some rapists. That would make it worse than we've already made it. And they have."

Carlson said "that a previously deported rapist was among the Afghan refugees that just landed at Dulles Airport" in Virginia. "Of course, let's import rapists, 'cause it's not bad enough," Carlson repeated.

But according to the story Carlson cited, the existing process of screening would-be refugees worked to identify the person.

The Washington Times reported that Ghader Heydari, a convicted rapist, was flagged by border officials at Dulles, noting they "spotted his criminal and immigration history and derailed his entry."

The paper said, "Heydari's exact path to entry is not clear, though it's unlikely he holds a Special Immigrant Visa. Those were reserved for Afghans who provided significant support for the U.S. in the war effort. It's also not likely he is a refugee, given his immigration history."

Carlson's guest during the segment, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI), offered no rebuttal as Carlson continued to smear refugees.

Tiffany said that refugees currently staying at U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy in Wisconsin were not being vetted, did not hold the Special Immigrant Visas allocated to those who had assisted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and were there "on parole" on the authority of the secretary of homeland security, "and he can just wave people in. They have circumvented, the Biden administration has circumvented the SIV process and they're just bringing people in on parole." Tiffany added that people were able to leave the base without the authority of the general who oversees it.

Carlson said, "If we're going to import thousands of unvetted Afghan Pashtun tribesmen, why aren't we moving them to the places where the people who make these decisions live?" specifically the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Tiffany answered, "Well, that would really be a good idea," before saying that refugees need to be vetted in a "safe third country like Qatar, someplace like that."

But the refugees at Fort McCoy are being vetted, despite the accusations from both men.

At a briefing on August 23, White House officials told reporters that refugees brought to the facility are subject to multiple screenings — biometric, biographic, and health screenings — before they reach the base.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that the Fort McCoy arrivals include people in the middle of the Special Immigrant Visa process, green card holders, and vulnerable populations that include professors, female journalists, and female students.

Carlson concluded the segment by invoking the white supremacist "great replacement" conspiracy theory, alleging that Afghan refugees are being brought to America by Democrats who "are just using a crisis to change our country — they'll never lose another election, that's the point, as you know."

Tiffany nodded.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Chef Andrés Mobilizing Relief For Ida And Afghan Evacuees

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

World-famous chef and humanitarian José Andrés says that his World Central Kitchen organization has three kitchens set up in Louisiana and is prepared to distribute 100,000 meals in Ida's aftermath. The hurricane—one of the strongest to ever hit the mainland U.S.—has left more than one million residents without power.

"Tomorrow morning as soon as it is safe our teams will go out, will start making meals, will start delivering to the different places that will be in need to do that," the chef told CNN on Sunday evening. "But more important: we need to be planning ahead, not only for days, but for weeks." The chef said a focus of World Central Kitchen would be to ensure both residents in New Orleans and across the state are fed.

A tweet from World Central Kitchen early Sunday morning showed relief workers and volunteers preparing hundreds of sandwiches at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. "Entering the storm with more supplies," replied Kyle Pounders, chef and owner of Excaliburger in Arkansas. That same morning, José Andrés said that "after the storm passes, we can do what we always do: go to other cities and very quickly fire up the kitchens that we have in position there."

The chef traveled to New Orleans following humanitarian efforts in Haiti, where an Aug. 14 earthquake killed 2,000 people and left thousands more homeless. "WCK's roots began in Haiti in 2010," the group's website said. "In January of that year, the country was hit with an absolutely devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people—and a decade later communities in Haiti are still recovering."

Much of that sentence could have easily have been written today, as the nation struggles to recover from both political instability following President Jovenel Moïse's assassination in July, and the 7.2 earthquake last month. "With a team already in Haiti, additional WCK relief workers began arriving in the country the day after the quake," the Miami Herald reports. A kitchen set up in Les Cayes has been feeding more than 10,000 people daily. The report said the organization hopes to soon double that number.

"This is really tough; it's tough in a different way than from the 2010 earthquake, which caused such massive devastation in Port-au-Prince," World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook told the Miami Herald. "Here, the impact is spread so far out in these rural communities that are very hard to reach with small pockets of people in need … But we are going to be here as long as we're needed."

World Central Kitchen has also been providing meals to newly arrived Afghan refugees at Dulles Airport in Virginia. Mook told WJLA on Friday that some refugees evacuated from Afghanistan haven't eaten for as long as two days. "It's a very long journey as they've gone from a number of bases, getting processed and then finally arriving at Dulles Airport," he said in the report. In a tweet, José Andrés said that "[w]hat's happening in Afghanistan breaks my heart … but the outpouring of support from people across America helps glue it back."

Leaving Afghanistan Shows Wisdom, Not Weakness

The suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghans was an atrocity that evoked horror in Americans of every political persuasion. But among those who want to continue the war, the loss was taken as proof that the U.S. should have persisted in a mission that had previously claimed the lives of more than 2,400 Americans.

Had we been willing to go on spilling American blood to stay in Afghanistan, we would not have had to spill blood leaving it. The logic is peculiar.

But the hawks always find a way to justify endless war. They can't very well pretend that we could win in Afghanistan, now or ever. So they find boundless reasons to criticize the manner of our withdrawal, which was bound to be a messy, dangerous process.

They also resort to hollow cliches. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the administration of "weakness." Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), asserted that "China and Russia will look to capitalize on Biden's weakness." Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass said the outcome "will reinforce questions about U.S. reliability."

Some of our European allies joined the chorus. A Conservative parliamentary leader in Britain said the withdrawal is "the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez" — as though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not gargantuan catastrophes.

Carping about alleged displays of weakness and loss of credibility is the familiar fallback of those trying to sustain a pointless military undertaking. They insist that ending it will have harmful effects on how others perceive us — a claim so vaporous it is impossible to disprove.

Their logic is that if we do something stupid, we have to keep doing it no matter what, because, you know, only weak people repent of their stupidity.

But if committing 20 years — as well as nearly 25,000 American casualties and more than $2 trillion — didn't persuade other governments of our resolve and staying power, it's hard to believe that Year 21 would be a game-changer. Foreigners might instead marvel at our willingness to lavish so much for so long on a mission that did little or nothing to enhance our security. They could deduce that when genuine U.S. interests are at stake, the sky is the limit on what we'd be willing to do.

Biden has shown a dedication to strengthening our alliances that his predecessor did not. President Donald Trump showed much fonder feelings for Russian President Vladimir Putin than for German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron.

Trump, in fact, bitterly resented our support of NATO. He even raised the possibility of refusing to honor our obligation, under Article 5 of the alliance treaty, to come to the defense of any member of the alliance who was attacked. Privately, he repeatedly expressed his desire to pull out of NATO.

Biden, by contrast, proudly wore a NATO lapel pin to a summit with European leaders in Brussels and declared: "Article 5 we take as a sacred obligation. I want NATO to know America is there." His principal difference with Merkel and Macron at that meeting lay in his desire to take a tougher line against China.

History offers additional evidence that ending a foolish, costly war will not degrade our international standing. Hawkish types said our 1973 withdrawal from Vietnam would speed the march of communism throughout the world. But it somehow failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberation of Eastern Europe, or the capitalist transformation of China.

Our adversaries have good reason not to test the proposition that the Biden administration is weak. Our military spending, after all, amounts to more than that of the next 11 countries combined. Our Navy has a dominant worldwide reach that no other country can come remotely close to matching.

Our ground forces have decades of combat experience that Russian and Chinese troops lack. Our peerless air power is a deterrent to adversaries from Tehran to Pyongyang.

Ending our involvement in Afghanistan doesn't weaken our posture against our adversaries. It strengthens it, by letting us direct our resources and attention to matters that directly implicate our national security. Biden, for better or worse, is not presiding over a retreat from our role in the world — merely a sensible reshaping of it.

Thursday's bombing was a disaster. But staying in Afghanistan would only have guaranteed more like it.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Afghans Who Won Visa Lottery Left Behind By Trump Policy

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Fakhruddin Akbari is allowing his full name to be published because he is certain he is going to die. Akbari, his wife and his 3-year-old daughter fled their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, two weeks ago. They've been hiding with friends in the city, living on bread and water.

He should be among the lucky ones.

Instead, Akbari fears the very thing he was hoping would be his salvation will now make him a target.

Two years ago, Akbari won a rare spot in the United States' "visa lottery." He was chosen at random from a pool of 23 million to get the chance to apply for one of 55,000 visas to immigrate to the U.S. The U.S. was supposed to have finished his case by last fall. The instructions when he registered promised as much. Either he would be safely en route to the U.S., or he would lose his chance and move on.

But with the final U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan just days away — and as Thursday's bombings have added even more chaos at Kabul's airport — Akbari has almost certainly lost his chance to get out.

He has already burned the letters of commendation his relatives received for their work with American contractors or allied militaries. The Taliban already know, he says, that he's part of a pro-American family. His neighbors have told him they've been visited by strangers asking about him.

A March 2020 ban signed by President Donald Trump, citing a need to protect the American economy, prevented Akbari and visa lottery winners from entering the U.S. In response to a lawsuit by immigration lawyers, a federal judge ruled earlier this month that the government has to move ahead on processing thousands of last year's lottery winners. But the U.S. has told the judge it can't even start until fall 2022 at the earliest.

Several hundred Afghans are in the group. They may be the unluckiest winners in the visa lottery's 30-year history.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

The lottery isn't open to everyone. Winners must come from a country that hasn't had much recent immigration to the U.S. Applicants for the visas must also submit biometric information, pass an interview and medical screening, and complete several security checks.

Nouman, an Afghan lottery winner who asked that his full name not be used over fear of the Taliban, spent months tracking down police documents from the Chinese town where he'd worked for a few years, to prove he had a clean record.

Those requirements are still far less restrictive than other ways to legally immigrate to the U.S., which generally require being closely related to a citizen or green-card holder or having a job offer from an American company. In Afghanistan, interest in the lottery is so great that Nouman said it took him two days to successfully log onto the swamped website where lottery results were posted.

But unlike other visas, diversity visas — the type lottery winners become eligible to receive — are on a tight and unvarying schedule.

Lottery winners are notified in the early summer. After submitting their full application, they can only be interviewed at the nearest U.S. consulate once the federal fiscal year begins on October 1. Then the whole process has to be completed within a year. Eligibility for the visa doesn't roll over.

Usually, most of the annual 55,000 visas have been handed out by that time. But last year, two things happened. First, in mid-March, consulates around the world shut down because of the pandemic. Two weeks later, Trump declared that letting in immigrants would hamper the recovery of the economy, and he signed the order barring most types of immigrants — including diversity visa holders.

When U.S. embassies and consulates began to reopen last summer, a State Department cable disclosed as part of the lawsuit shows they were instructed to handle diversity visas last, even if they met the narrow exemptions to the ban.

Giving someone a visa is legally distinct from letting them enter the U.S., and critics of Trump's actions — including a group of lawyers who filed lawsuits over the bans — argued that even if the ban were legal, consulates could still prepare visas so that recipients could come after the ban was rescinded, which President Joe Biden did this February.

In early September last year, Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the argument and ordered the government to make up for lost time, prioritizing diversity visa applicants ahead of everyone else for the last 26 days of the fiscal year.

The State Department's bureaucracy took a few days to get into gear. Then it began a process that turned out to be far from efficient.

Officials compiled a spreadsheet of applicants who had joined the now-consolidated suit and were supposed to be prioritized, but it was riddled with misspelled names and incorrect case numbers. In a court declaration, a State Department official from a different office said the spreadsheet took "many queries" from his team to fix.

Once consulates and embassies got the correct names, they rushed appointments, often giving applicants little notice. The Kabul embassy wasn't participating at all, so any Afghan appointments were set up in different countries — or continents.

At least three Afghan immigrants, including Nouman, were scheduled for interviews in Cameroon. All three were given one day's notice to get there. (Nouman, at least, was able to get a later appointment in Islamabad, Pakistan.)

Many more weren't given interviews at all. According to court filings, some State Department employees told applicants who called the office handling the cases that if they hadn't officially joined the lawsuit, "you lost your chance" — which wasn't true. When a COVID-19 outbreak hit the office and workers went remote, the help line shut down entirely.

When the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, 2020, more than 40,000 of the 55,000 diversity visas were still unused — and several hundred Afghans were still waiting. Less than 20% of the Afghan lottery winners had gotten visas by the deadline.

That day, Mehta had ordered the State Department to reserve 9,505 slots, based on his estimate of how many diversity visas could have been processed if COVID-19 had existed but the ban didn't. When the case finally concluded this month, he declared that the government would indeed have to process those visas.

That opinion came down on August 17, two days after Kabul fell.

In a response filed to Mehta on Thursday, the government offered to start processing last year's visas in October 2022. One reason given for the proposed delay was that processing older visas is "an unprecedented computing demand that will require the Department to implement wide-ranging hardware and software modifications." Another was that processing diversity visas would take resources away from dealing with the crisis in Afghanistan.

It went unmentioned that some people are affected by both.

Lawyers for the affected immigrants made an emergency filing this week, with testimony from several Afghans worried that they would be targeted by the Taliban precisely because they had sought to immigrate to the U.S. They're hoping the court will order expedited consideration for Afghan lottery winners.

The lawyers are moving to appeal for the court to order that Afghans get priority in the visa process. The plaintiffs' lawyers had asked the government to consent to their filing the request. The government's response — after several days of silence, delaying the filing — was to call it an "unnecessary distraction."

In a meeting by phone on Monday, according to two people on the call, another government attorney complained that he'd been getting emails from applicants "all over the world" and blamed their lawyers for posting his address online. One of those emails was a desperate cry for help from Akbari. "We are totally hopeless and every knock of the door seems like a call to death for us," Akbari wrote. "Please help us."

In the time since sending that email, Akbari and his family have made two attempts to get to Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. The first time, he says, they were beaten back by the Taliban. The second time he was stopped by the United States. The Marines guarding the airport said they couldn't enter. The reason? They did not have visas.

For Republicans, Afghanistan Is Merely Another Way To Damage Biden

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Thursday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation after an explosion outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport took the lives of 13 American service members. In that speech, Biden sent condolences to the families of those lost, promised to track down the terrorists behind the attack, reaffirmed his commitment to carry on with the evacuation in Afghanistan, praised the sacrifice and dedication of the all-volunteer military, took full responsibility for his decisions, and doubled-down on bringing the 20-year conflict to a close.

In response, Republicans made it clear that they have a strategy of their own. That strategy won't get one more person out of Afghanistan. It won't save the lives of a single service member. It's not concerned with finding the ISIS-K terrorists behind the explosion. It isn't concerned with taking any responsibility. It most certainly doesn't want the war to end. Nope. The Republican plan for Afghanistan is blindingly simple: With the help of the media, use it to damage Joe Biden.

As CNN reports, the only thing bothering Republicans about Afghanistan is a divide over just how they can leverage the death of American service members as political fodder.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan sent 800 U.S. Marines into Lebanon to help push leftist Palestinians out of the country and protect gains made by the Christian Phalange militia in a long-running civil war. Afterward, a Marine was killed by a bomb, snipers killed several more Marines, 63 people were killed when a suicide driver cruised an explosive-laden van into the U.S. embassy, and 241 service members were killed when another terrorist drove a sophisticated truck bomb into the central Marine barracks. It was the most significant single-day number of American Marines lost since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Post-bombing reports showed that the Marines had not been allowed to maintain a secure perimeter for pollical reasons. Still, Reagan went in front of the nation and vowed that the Marines would stay until the mission was complete. Except they didn't. After four months of no progress, Reagan pulled the Marines out. The identities of the terrorists who drove a van into the U.S. embassy and the terrorists who drove a truck into the Marine barracks were never established. It was never clear where they came from or what group they supported.

Following this, Reagan was reelected by a record margin in November 1984. But that, of course, was a different time. Also, Reagan managed to squeeze a whole second war into the time between pulling out the Marines and Election Day. And in that second little war—which even Margaret Thatcher thought was ridiculous—only 20 Marines got killed. Reagan ran on these examples of his willingness to expend American lives.

Currently, there's a civil war in the Republican Party between those who want to impeach Joe Biden (or call on him to resign right now ) and those who are willing to wait until Republicans gain an expected House majority in the 2022 election.

Few things could illustrate the total lack of concern that Republicans hold for the actual situation in Afghanistan better than a press briefing McCarthy held on Friday morning. As NBC News reporter Jake Sherman reported, McCarthy didn't bother with checking to see if he had a coherent statement concerning what was actually happening. Instead, the Republican leader called for every troop to come out of Afghanistan while simultaneously insisting that Bagram Airbase be reoccupied. Then he said that America should keep some troops in Afghanistan, but we shouldn't be negotiating with the Taliban. And when it was pointed out that Trump negotiated with the Taliban, McCarthy just moved on to debate the best time to impeach Biden. McCarthy doesn't have a position on that, either, because McCarthy's position is never more than what the crowd is calling for at that exact second.

When it comes to developing an actual proposal on what to do in Afghanistan, Republicans have one clear position: Why?

Why should they? Why bother when, as Huff Post pointed out on Thursday, Republicans can simultaneously make calls for actions that would require Biden to reinvade the entire country, and at the same time, criticize him for not getting every single person out of the nation without a scratch. The media won't challenge the lack of reason or consistency. Why do anything more? As long as Republicans can see that networks will gladly put them on the air and echo their statements about "chaos" and "failure," having an actual strategy on Afghanistan would only be a liability.

That frees Republicans to concentrate on the one thing that genuinely concerns them: 2022. Untethered from either the necessity of governing or the need to have a coherent platform, Republicans can be all-attack all the time. That allows statements like this from Republican Rep. Mark Green, "I'd put more military in there, I'd get every single American out, and I'd start killing bad guys." Or Sen. Ben Sasse writing a note in which he declares that America needs to "reverse course" and occupy most of Afghanistan because ending the war shows "weakness."

None of it makes sense. It doesn't have to make sense. Because Republicans don't consider their enemy to be either the Taliban or ISIS-K, they don't consider their goal to be getting Americans out safely. They certainly aren't interested in ending the war.

They're only interested in evacuating Democrats from the House, Senate, and White House. And in that scheme, they seem to have plenty of allies.