Emergency Visa System Fixed, State Dept Says

WASHINGTON (spytalk): The State Department says it has fixed a glitch in the email system that was overwhelmed Sunday by applications by and for Afghans desperate to escape the clutches of the Taliban.

“The volume of emails temporarily overwhelmed the email system,” a spokesperson told SpyTalk on condition of anonymity. “The Department has taken corrective action, and emails should no longer be receiving an error message response.”

Earlier Sunday, a former Air Force sergeant showed SpyTalk the response he got to a Special Immigrant Visa application he was trying to file for an Afghan that he worked with during a 2011-2012 tour of duty. It said, “the recipient’s mailbox is full and can’t accept messages now. Please try resending the message later, or contact the recipient directly.”

“The State Department apparently forgot to take the size limit off of it, so all of these thousands of emails coming in from Afghans trying to get out are just bouncing,” former Air Force Sergeant Sam Lerman said. “I first submitted an SIV application at 6:00 am, and it was bouncing, and has been ever since.”

Informed late Sunday afternoon that it was now working, Lerman said, “Awesome. It only took 11 hours.” He was busy trying to re-file the application for his counterpart, who worked with him protecting Bagram Air Base. “It’s fixed,” he said after resubmitting the application.

“The Afghan partner that I’m trying to get out is not very tech savvy, so I’ve been up for about 50-something hours straight working the application process for him and filling everything out.”

Lerman was outraged by the development, which added yet another barrier to evacuating thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. and now find themselves on the hit lists of Taliban death squads.

“This is murder by incompetence,” Lerman said.

“I have other people that can’t get to Kabul because the administration prepared for this so poorly. I have another friend who’s trying to get his [paperwork] in, but he got overrun before he could get to Kabul,” Lerman added.

“He was texting me this morning, and his village was overrun, and he was hiding, and texting me from a back room, with Taliban outside.”

Thomas Johnson, who’s been visiting and writing about Afghanistan for more than three decades, said Afghans outside of Kabul now are probably doomed to be left behind.

“We and [NATO allies] had hundreds of bases…and garrisons all over the country” and the Taliban knows the identity of “many” stationed there, Johnson told SpyTalk.

“It will be almost impossible to get these Afghans and their families out of the country because it is near impossible for them to get to Kabul and its airport. This fact alone could result in the murder of many Afghans.”