Between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans remained trapped in Taliban-held Afghanistan as the U.S. withdrew from the country, President Joe Biden revealed Wednesday night.
Last week, the Pentagon had estimated there were 5,000 to 10,000 Americans outside of Kabul who needed to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, 50,000 to 65,000 Afghans and their families are also on the list of people the United States would like to get out of the country, Biden said in an interview with ABC News.
Initially, the Biden administration estimated there were 30,000 people it wanted to get out, including Afghans who had been translators or otherwise assisted U.S. forces and could be marked for death under the Taliban.
The president said Americans will be successfully pulled out of Afghanistan.
“And if you’re American force — if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” Biden said.
His projected confidence came in stark contrast to comments from his defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, that the U.S. was not even able to make the trip from the Kabul airport into the city to rescue Americans, according to CNBC.
“I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Austin said Wednesday.
“And where do you take that? How far can you extend into Kabul and how long does it take to flow those forces in to be able to do that?”
There are 15K Americans trapped in #Afghanistan. Some are reaching the airport for evac but it is unclear how many the Taliban will allow through.
Dual citizens are the most at risk.
Those outside Kabul have no real option.
Pray for them. And call your congressman.
— Jennifer Cafarella (@JennyCafarella) August 18, 2021
Earlier, the State Department warned Americans it could not assure them of safe passage to the airport.
The below note went out this afternoon to American citizens requesting to be evacuated from Afghanistan, @alanacbs reports. It instructs people to come to Hamid Karzai Intl Airport in Kabul, but says the US govt cannot guarantee their safety as they make the trip. @CBSNews pic.twitter.com/rgEyjGup4K
— Sara Cook (@saraecook) August 17, 2021
“We have seen reports that the Taliban, contrary to their public statements and their commitments to our government, are blocking Afghans who wish to leave the country from reaching the airport,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said, according to CNBC.
Further, sources NBC News identified as “Senate staffers” said the Biden administration has no plan to evacuate Americans outside of Kabul because of Taliban checkpoints.
Through Tuesday, the report said, 1,000 Americans had been evacuated, although the Daily Mail pegged the number at 2,000.
Biden said the chaotic airport in Kabul needs to pick up the pace.
“It depends on where we are and whether we can get — ramp these numbers up to five to five — 7,000 a day coming out. If that’s the case, they’ll all be out,” he told ABC News.
The president said his deadline of Aug. 31 for the end of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan could be extended.
— ABC News (@ABC) August 19, 2021
“Americans should understand that we’re gonna try to get it done before Aug. 31,” he said.
“But if we don’t,” interviewer George Stephanopoulos said, “the troops will stay –“
“If — if we don’t,” Biden said, “we’ll determine at the time who’s left.”
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