We have watched in horror as the Afghanistan evacuation unfolded over the last several weeks with some U.S. citizens still stranded indefinitely after Joe Biden’s cut and run. But these are not the only Americans who are in harm’s way. Expats are living in numerous potential conflict zones and hot spots around the world. The Commander-In-Chief has a solemn duty to protect Americans abroad. But adversaries such as China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia can make military moves that could trap U.S. citizens overseas and force another botched evacuation. Can we trust Joe Biden to protect our expats?
Biden promised to get all Americans out of Afghanistan. He broke that promise. The Americans who are stranded will probably become hostages of the Taliban or worse. The Biden administration said that they will use “diplomatic and economic means” to get our people out and not deploy the military. Special operations forces are the best bet to rescue Americans stranded in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon said there will no military deployments. However, it is not only Afghanistan that has American citizens who could be endangered by war.
The first trouble zone is Guam. The island nation has around 7,000 American military personnel. Guam is in range of North Korean and Chinese missiles and an attack would be catastrophic. All people born in Guam are U.S. citizens and that means there are over 160,000 Americans who would be in danger and would need to be evacuated upon conflict. This could be Dunkirk all over again.
South Korea, always in the crosshairs of North Korea, has roughly 157,000 Americans living in the South. 28,500 American troops also stand ready. An attack from the North would be a nightmare for the Biden administration as the sheer number of Americans in danger would be another bridge too far for evacuation.
Taiwan, forever a threat to be over-run by China, has approximately 9,000 Americans living there. The United States has passed the Taiwan Relations Act, but this does not guarantee the U.S. military will automatically engage in hostilities with the Chinese in a fight over Taiwan. Congress would also have to approve a U.S. military response, but American citizens would need to be removed upon Chinese transgressions. A likely scenario would be the Chinese engaging in an embargo or blockade of Taiwan forcing the Biden administration to execute some form of risky airlift and sealift to get U.S. expats out depending on the level of imminent danger.
The Chinese also have claims and military installations in various rocks and reefs in the South and East China Seas. These are disputed territories and flashpoints that could result in military confrontation with Japan, Vietnam, or the Philippines – all countries with substantial American populations that might need to be rescued upon conflict with China.
The Middle East cannot be forgotten with the rise of Iran, Shia militias, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Israel, always in a dangerous neighborhood, has anywhere between one hundred and three hundred thousand American citizens at any given time. This number changes regularly because American Jews can automatically become citizens of Israel. But mounting rocket barrages could make it too dangerous for expats and there are substantial risks of ballistic missile launches aimed at densely-populated areas in Israel. American citizens would want out in this scenario.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are also at loggerheads. There are 40,000 Americans in Saudi Arabia. We know Iran can reach the kingdom with cruise missiles and drones. Houthi militants from Yemen can also target Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles. A large-scale attack would require the U.S. military to airlift Americans out.
Africa is dangerous for expats due to heightened risks from extremist terror groups. Military personnel were pulled out of Somalia in January. Djibouti is the most populous U.S. base in Africa with 4,000 troops – primarily special operations forces and their support personnel. An unknown number of civilian defense contractors would be the first to be evacuated from Djibouti if the worst happened.
Across the globe in Eastern Europe, thousands of Americans live in Ukraine and in the Baltics. We know Russia would like to expand its territory and usurp more territory in its Near Abroad. Russia had a huge military force right across the border from Ukraine earlier this year and 80,000 Russian troops remain at the border, down from 120,000 in April. They opted not to invade this year, but it made the U.S. embassy take pause as it pondered a larger military conflict with Russia that would endanger U.S. citizens.
Actions matter in foreign policy, and they set a precedent. We currently have at least 200 Americans trapped in Afghanistan after a withdrawal that showed the Biden administration’s weakness and incompetence. Our adversaries including Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea, not to mention radical terror groups, have noticed that American citizens will get left behind by the President and the U.S. military. This is a weakness that can be exploited. Biden has shown that he has not protected Americans overseas and we cannot trust him with this sacred duty. The next cut and run could happen sooner rather than later with horrible consequences for American expats.
Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is a Political Scientist and Emerging Threats expert. He was Founder and CEO of an award-winning tech firm that predicted world events using machine learning and artificial intelligence. He served in the U.S. Senate as a legislative fellow and advised a senator on defense and foreign policy issues. Brent has taught at George Washington University and George Mason University. He is a former U.S. Army Infantry officer.