According to the Biden administration, there could be at least 1,000 Americans in Afghanistan with no way out.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave an estimate of 1,500 Americans in Afghanistan. Blinken said the administration was in contact with about 500 of them and is making plans to evacuate them by its self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline, which the Taliban has threatened the administration to adhere to.
He suggested some Americans may not want to leave.
The Washington Post reported some Americans have said they will stay in Afghanistan unless they can bring along Afghan family members.
“From the list of approximately 1,000, we believe that the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, and likely significantly lower,” Blinken said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
Blinken said the State Department is “aggressively” trying to contact the remaining Americans in Afghanistan, but a senior official told reporters that “in many cases, we have not heard back from them,” according to CNN.
CNN reported that during a Senate briefing Wednesday, an aide told the outlet the State Department said 4,100 Americans were trying to get out of Afghanistan.
Blinken’s portrayal of an orderly, if frenzied, process for evacuating Americans was at variance with information Fox News said came from an unnamed American in Kabul.
The man told the outlet on Tuesday he could not get to the airport on multiple occasions because the crowd of “thousands” made the trip “impossible.”
“One time, I got myself to the gate, but I was bleeding and had bruises all over my body at that time because I had to pass through all those people, pushing and pushing,” he said.
“They saw my passport in my hand, and they’re telling me, ‘Just wait.’ I don’t have time to wait. People are pushing from behind and these guys are hitting me. How am I going to wait?”
Getting out of Afghanistan was complicated by a warning issued by the U.S. Embassy advising Americans to avoid the airport.
“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the statement from the embassy said, according to The New York Times.
The Times reported a “senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” claimed the U.S. was aware of a “specific” and “credible” threat of an attack at the airport by the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
In announcing the official number of Americans inside Afghanistan, Blinken offered the hope that the carrot of economic assistance from the United States would motivate the Taliban to let Afghan allies flee the country, something the Taliban has said it will not allow.
“[W]e will use every diplomatic, economic assistance tool at our disposal working hand-in-hand with the international community, first and foremost to ensure that those who want to leave Afghanistan after the 31st are able to do so, as well as to deal with other issues that we need to be focused on, including counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance, and expectations of a future Afghan government,” Blinken said, according to the transcript of his remarks.
“[W]e got 114 countries around the world to make clear to the Taliban the international expectation that people will continue to be able to leave the country after the military evacuation effort ends. And we certainly have points of incentive and points of leverage with a future Afghan government to help make sure that that happens.”
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