FACT CHECK: Viral Tweet Claims The Afghanistan War Killed Nearly 250,000 Afghans, The US Has Only Accepted 1,592 Afghan Refugees Since 2001

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

A post shared on Twitter claims that the U.S. has only admitted 1,592 refugees from Afghanistan since 2001 and that nearly 250,000 Afghans have been killed in that same time frame.

Verdict: Misleading

The U.S. has admitted over 20,000 Afghan refugees since 2001, according to data from the Refugee Processing Center. Brown University’s Costs of War project estimates about 241,000 total people “have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001,” including U.S. service members, civilians, Afghan security forces, opposition fighters and others.

Fact Check:

Amid the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the U.S. and other countries have evacuated their citizens, Afghan allies and others from the capital city of Kabul, according to Reuters. Multiple countries, including the U.S., South Korea and the U.K., have also accepted Afghan refugees, The Washington Post reported.

“Nearly 250,000 Afghans have been killed since the US launched its war in #Afghanistan in 2001,” one recent tweet alleges. “Since 2001, the US has only taken in 1592 Afghan refugees.” (RELATED: No, This Video Does Not Show The People Of Kabul Welcoming The Taliban Into The City)

The tweet’s figure for the number of Afghan refugees the U.S. has taken since 2001 is inaccurate. The Refugee Processing Center, which is operated by the State Department, has published a “Refugee Admissions Report” spreadsheet on its website that shows the U.S. has actually admitted over 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan between the start of fiscal year 2001 and July 31, 2021.

The U.S. also issued about 2,100 Special Immigrant Visas from fiscal year 2007 to March 31, 2021, for Afghan translators and interpreters and roughly 73,600 Special Immigrant Visas from fiscal year 2008 to March 31, 2021, for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

The number in the tweet appears to stem from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agency, which lists the U.S. as having admitted 1,592 Afghan “refugees under UNHCR’s mandate” during calendar year 2020. In fiscal year 2020, the U.S. admitted 11,814 total refugees, 604 of which were Afghans, according to Refugee Processing Center data.

The UNHCR’s figure – 1,592 Afghan refugees admitted by the U.S. in calendar year 2020 – includes refugees and “people in refugee-like situations” such as those who “are outside their country or territory of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained,” according to the agency’s methodology and methodology definitions. That and the grouping by calendar year as opposed to fiscal year accounts for the difference between the UNHCR and the Refugee Processing Center’s figures.

The UNHCR “looks at these numbers in calendar year terms while the U.S. government tends to group by fiscal year,” Chris Boian, a UNHCR spokesperson, told Check Your Fact via email. (RELATED: Did Joe Biden Attend The Dignified Transfer Ceremony At Dover Air Force Base?)

“So apart from all the other caveats, the two are not using the same timeframe of reference, making direct comparisons of our data complicated,” Boian said. “When it comes to data on people who have either been granted asylum by the United States or have been admitted for resettlement to the United States, the U.S. government is the authoritative source.”

While it’s not immediately clear where the tweet’s 250,000 Afghan deaths figure originated, Brown University’s Costs of War project estimates about 241,000 people “have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001.” The Costs of War project’s number includes the estimated direct war deaths of U.S. military members, U.S. contractors, Afghan national military and police members, Allied troops, civilians, opposition fighters, and others. Another estimate from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program of Uppsala University in Sweden puts the number of people who have died in the country since 2001 during the conflict at about 212,000.

From October 2001 to April 2021, an estimated 66,000-69,000 Afghan national military and police, 47,245 civilians and 51,191 opposition fighters were killed in Afghanistan, according to the Costs of War project. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has published reports with data showing over 43,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan from 2007 to June 2021.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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