Up to 1,500 Americans still trying to flee Afghanistan, Blinken says
The U.S. has evacuated more than 4,500 Americans from Afghanistan, is in touch with 500 more people who are trying to get out, and believes up to 1,000 more Americans may want to evacuate, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.
Why it matters: With the window to conduct evacuations set to close within days, the number of Americans still in the country had been a critical unanswered question.
Breaking it down: Blinken said as of Aug. 14, the estimated number of Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan was around 6,000 — though he noted that such estimates are very rough because U.S. citizens are under no obligation to register when they enter or leave the country.
- Beyond those who have been evacuated, an additional 500 people are in direct contact with the State Department, which is providing guidance on how to reach the airport.
- That leaves around 1,000 people who "may be Americans" and may be trying to leave, Blinken said. But he noted that some may not actually be Americans, some may have left the country, and others may have decided to stay, meaning the true figure is likely lower than 1,000.
- Blinken said the State Department was working to contact every American in the country.
What's next: Blinken reiterated that President Biden believes the U.S. can complete its evacuation mission by Aug. 31 if the Taliban continues to cooperate, but has asked for contingency plans in case he has to extend the deadline. Any extension would cross a Taliban red line.
- Blinken said the effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies will continue beyond Aug. 31, and the Taliban have promised to extend sage passage out of the country beyond that point.
- However, the Taliban said Tuesday it would begin stopping Afghans from reaching the airport, and it's unclear how the airport will function after it passes into Taliban control.
In total, 82,300 people have been evacuated by the U.S., including 19,000 in the last 24-hour period, Blinken said.
- Many of those are Afghans who worked with U.S. troops or are otherwise vulnerable after the Taliban takeover.
- U.S. allies in NATO, and some on Capitol Hill, believe it will be impossible to get all eligible Afghans out before Biden's deadline.