With less than a week until the deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. State Department estimates that no more than 1,500 Americans seeking to be evacuated remain in the country.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave an update on the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan during a press conference Wednesday, saying: “Our first priority is the evacuation of American citizens. Since Aug. 14, we have evacuated at least 4,500 U.S. citizens and likely more. More than 500 of those Americans were evacuated in just the last day alone.”
The U.S. and allied forces have evacuated approximately 88,000 people since Aug. 14, mostly Afghans.
“Based on our analysis, starting on Aug. 14, when our evacuation operations began, there was then a population of as many as 6,000 American citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave,” he said. “Over the last 10 days, roughly 4,500 of these Americans have been safely evacuated, along with immediate family members.”
He added, “Over the past 24 hours, we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely.” He noted that “for the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication.”
During a bipartisan news conference outside the U.S. Capitol today, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, accused of administration of kowtowing to the Taliban and setting a deadline before the evacuation is complete.
“The conditions at the airport are very ... severe. ISIS-K is there. The Taliban and ISIS-K don’t get along; they can’t control them,” McCaul, the Republican Leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said. “So there’s a major terror threat at the airport right now. I think that’s some of the urgency that the administration is walking into the August 31st deadline.”
He asserted that the withdrawal should be “based on conditions on the ground when the mission is accomplished, not an arbitrary timeline. For God’s sake, we’re the United States of America. We’re going to let the Taliban dictate how we exit and when we exit? That has weakened us, our standing in the world, when we are bowing down to the Taliban and letting them dictate the terms of our surrender,” McCaul added.
Other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who were at the news conference included Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., who urged Biden to continue to evacuate all Americans and those with special immigrant visas, and Reps. August Pfluger, Ronny Jackson, both of Texas. Actors Parker Young and Adhir Kalyan were also there and urged the president to extend the deadline.
At the State Department, Blinken told reporters that the U.S. is working to “determine whether they still want to leave” and, if so, enabling them “to get the most up-to-date information and instructions to them for how to do so.”
“Some may no longer be in the country; some may claim to be Americans but turn out not to be. Some may choose to stay. We’ll continue to try to identify the status and plans of these people in the coming days.”
Blinken concluded that “From this list of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower.”
The secretary of state described the statistics he presented as “dynamic calculations that we are working hour-by-hour to refine for accuracy.”
Responding to a question from a reporter, Blinken indicated that the figures he provided regarding the number of U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan do not include green card holders.
Blinken also explained why “the numbers are difficult to pin down in absolute precision at any given moment.” He specifically mentioned that the U.S. does not require Americans traveling overseas to register at U.S. embassies in foreign countries upon either entry or departure.
“The specific estimated number of Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave can go up as people respond to our outreach for the first time. And it can go down when we reach Americans who we thought were in Afghanistan who tell us they’ve already left,” he asserted. “There could be other Americans in Afghanistan who … ignored public evacuation notices and have not yet identified themselves to us.”
Blinken added that other reasons why the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan might frequently fluctuate include discovering that “many people who contact us and identify themselves as American citizens, including by filling out and submitting repatriation assistance forms, are not, in fact, U.S. citizens, something that can take some time to verify.”
“There are Americans who are still evaluating their decision to leave based on the situation on the ground, that evolves daily and, in fact, evolves hourly. Some are understandably very … scared. Each has a set of personal priorities and considerations that they alone can weigh.”
Blinken also addressed concerns about the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
After reiterating that Biden had requested contingency plans in the event of a longer-than-expected stay in the country, he stressed that “There is no deadline on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to leave to do so, along with the many Afghans who have stood by us over these many years.”
“That effort will continue every day past Aug. 31,” he vowed. “The Taliban have made public and private commitments to provide and permit safe passage for Americans” seeking to leave after Aug. 31.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org