The Washington Examiner reported Monday that the Biden administration has removed thousands of images and videos depicting America’s Afghan allies from a public government website.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters this week that the “mammoth undertaking” is part of an effort to protect those who were left behind following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August.
According to the Examiner, Kirby said failing to take the images off the public site “would show the faces or any other identifiable information about many of the Afghans that we have worked for, we’ve supported and have supported us over the last 20 years,” potentially putting them at risk for retaliation from the Taliban, which took over Kabul as American troops left in late August.
He explained: “My guidance was, I want any imagery that could be used to identify individuals and or family members over the last 20 years of war — I want it to be unpublished for a temporary period of time, and it is temporary.”
Kirby also reportedly said the move “was done out of an abundance of caution” and noted that the images in question were archived rather than permanently deleted.
“They’re safe and sound, and we’ll put them back in the public domain when we think it’s the right time to do that,” Kirby told reporters.
“They were up on [the website] for a long, long time,” he noted, according to the Examiner. “Some of them for more than a decade, and they’ll get back up there. We promise that.”
Will it help?
Still, the decision to take down the images will come as little help to individuals currently living under Taliban rule who have already been tied to the United States or coalition forces.
Fox News reported last month that an Afghan sniper who worked alongside British troops was “hunted down” and executed in front of his family.
“He [had] been in hiding because of the threat he faced,” British former Col. Ash Alexander-Cooper told reporters, according to Fox. “But they found him, and he was shot multiple times, executed in front of his family.”
He added: “It was entirely predictable this would happen for all of those left behind who were given no guidance.”
And it isn’t just those with ties to the military who are facing threats; the New York Post reported last month that a volleyball player for the Afghan girls national team was beheaded by Taliban forces, who had been targeting female athletes.