- “It’s over. We can’t get people out,” Matt Zeller, a former CIA analyst and veteran, told Insider on August 25.
- Zeller spoke to Insider less than a week before the last US military flights left Afghanistan.
- Gen. McKenzie said that nearly 123,000 had been evacuated, but said, “We did not get everyone out who we wanted to get out.”
“It’s over. We can’t get people out,” Matt Zeller, a former CIA analyst and war veteran who works as the Board Chair with the Association of Wartime Allies to help refugees and allies, told Insider on Wednesday, August 25.
Zeller spoke to Insider less than a week before the US ended the war in Afghanistan. “On August 30 at 3:29 p.m. East Coast time,” Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command, said the last US military flight left the country.
In total McKenzie said that, overall, nearly 123,000 had been evacuated from Afghanistan. Still, McKenzie acknowledged, “We did not get everyone out who we wanted to get out.” Fewer than 250 American citizens, who wanted to leave, were left behind and an untold number of Afghan allies.
“The military phase of this operation is ended,” he said. “The diplomatic sequel to that will now begin.”
In the weeks prior, American veterans, like Zeller, worked tirelessly to help Afghan allies out of the country, but were met with myriad obstacles – even before a blast at the airport killed dozens of Afghans and 13 US troops on Friday. The US military believes ISIS-K, the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan and a sworn enemy of the Taliban, was responsible for the blast.
At a press conference last week, the Taliban said that only foreigners will be allowed to leave the country and they will not be extending the deadline of August 31 to evacuate Americans. Zeller, who has been in contact with people on the ground in Afghanistan, told Insider last week that the Taliban has completely changed how their security operates since the Tuesday press conference.
Others reported similar challenges with getting through the Taliban’s security checkpoints, though McKenzie said that between 1,000-1,500 Afghans had been flown out of the country in the 24 hours from when he spoke on Monday afternoon.
The August 16 Taliban takeover sent Americans and Afghans into a frenzy as they fear what the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government means. During the Taliban’s reign from 1996 to 2001, women were not allowed to work, go to school, or leave the house without a male escort. The Taliban also implemented cruel punishments such as being stoned and public executions. They also prevented people from listening to music.
The Biden administration stuck to their August 31 deadline to evacuate all Americans and troops who want to leave Afghanistan.
Zeller, who is the co-founder of No One Left Behind, estimated a panel on PBS last week that 175,000 allies would be left behind. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal put that estimate at tens of thousands who were left behind after the last military plane left.
“See what happens when you lose a war,” Zeller said. “You just capitulate the end.”
“My heart aches so profoundly for these wonderful people,” Zeller told Insider last week.