Almost 150 American University Students Have Made It Out of Afghanistan

Almost 150 students of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) have made it out of the country in recent days, the university's president told Newsweek.

It comes after a report by The New York Times revealed hundreds of current and former students were turned away from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport after seven hours of waiting for security clearance on Sunday.

The massive U.S.-led evacuation of the country ended with the last U.S. soldiers flying out of the airport just before midnight on Monday.

AUAF President Dr. Ian Bickford said university officials have been trying to get 1,200 students, staff and relatives out of the country since the Taliban swept into Kabul last month.

The campus shut down on August 14 while the Taliban were still on the outskirts of the capital, and Bickford and other foreign staff fled the country.

"We have been trying for two weeks to get our students safe passage into the airport to relocate them to other sites—both branches that we are developing and partner universities, where we can reconvene as a community and start to rebuild and help them recover from the experience that they've had," Bickford told Newsweek.

So far, almost 150 students have managed to leave the country, he said, with some crossing the border into a neighboring country and others managing to access the airport individually and get a flight out, he said.

Bickford said he and other university officials are still looking for ways to get the remaining students, staff and their relatives out of the country.

"We're looking for help from the US government, absolutely," he said. "We would have liked to have been prioritized for rescue flights during the two weeks that the U.S. was there. Now that that is finished, we believe other options will emerge, but it's very hard to paint a picture today of what that will look like."

The U.S. State Department has been contacted for comment.

Continuing With Their Education

In the meantime, Bickford said the university has started programs for the fall semester.

That's "the best way for students to be together," he said. "Our determination is that any student either with access to the Internet or more can be with us, can continue their education and complete their degree.

"The important thing is that the American University of Afghanistan was established as a permanent commitment to young, ambitious Afghan men and women and so we expect that to continue."

In an address to the nation on Tuesday, President Joe Biden noted that the Taliban "has made public commitments, broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan, on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans."

Biden added: "We don't take them by their word alone but by their actions, and we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met."

He said the U.S. and its allies had airlifted 100,000 Afghans out of the country. "We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. And we're far from done," Biden added.

Afghan students walk by a mural
Afghan students walk by a mural that reads: "I am back, because education prevails," at the entrance to the campus of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) on May 16, 2019, in western Kabul, Afghanistan. Scott Peterson/Getty Images