Thousands of people have been waiting for months for their visa applications to be approved.
Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which began in July 2021, Taliban militants retook Kabul on August 15, almost two decades after they were driven from the capital.
On the same day, President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, leaving the presidential palace to Taliban fighters. Last week, the country plunged into chaos with people trying to flee. Many have died trying to do so in the past few days.
Following this chaos, U.S. President, Joe Biden, spoke about Afghanistan on August 16. In his address, he said, "I know there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghan civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country. And part of it because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, a crisis of confidence."
This statement is misleading on several levels. Firstly, the U.S. did not anticipate that the Taliban militants would quickly take over the country. Last week, U.S. intelligence analysts predicted it would likely take several more weeks before Afghanistan's civilian government in Kabul fell to Taliban fighters.
Furthermore, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 18,000 U.S. visa applications of Afghan allies were stuck in a backlog. Due to the intense visa process, some have been waiting years for their visa to be processed. The average application takes over two years to complete. According to the New York Times, "Critics say that the U.S. government, going back several administrations, has delayed special immigrant visa approvals by demanding an extraordinary amount of documentation as part of an unwieldy 14-step process."
Therefore, while it might be true that some did not want to leave the country, several thousand people were waiting for their visas to be approved and have been trying to leave the country for months as American forces started withdrawing.