During a press briefing Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that there are only roughly 500 Americans remaining in Afghanistan who wish to be evacuated.
He noted that out of 6,000 U.S. citizens who stated that they wanted to leave as of August 14, when the evacuation effort began, 4,500 U.S. passport holders were rescued, leaving 1,500 people, approximately 500 of whom are still actively looking for passage out. The State Department is trying to ascertain the status of about 1,000 U.S. citizens who have not contacted the U.S. government explicitly requesting evacuation. The numbers Blinken cited do not include those in possession of a U.S. green card, reporters confirmed at the press conference.
However, the secretary said that this number is fluid and “dynamic” given the rapidly evolving circumstances on the ground.
“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 can go down when we reach Americans we thought were in Afghanistan but have already left,” he said.
Blinken added that U.S. forces have an arrangement with the Taliban to facilitate departure of those who want to leave even after the August 31 deadline for U.S. military withdrawal.
“The Taliban have made public and private commitments to provide and permit safe passage for Americans… and Afghans at risk going forward, past August 31,” he said.
The number Blinken provided Wednesday contradicts the estimate the State Department revealed earlier in the day to congressional staffers, who were told that 4,100 U.S. citizens remained in Afghanistan and wished to be evacuated, multiple outlets reported. Of those citizens, not all were believed to be in and around Kabul, the capital of the nation where the airport is situated, a Senate aid told CNN.
Earlier Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed that 19,000 evacuees exited Afghanistan in the last 24 hours.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, state department spokesman Ned Price, and President Biden himself have emphasized that Americans who “want” to leave Afghanistan can come home, suggesting that some may prefer to stay put, despite the Taliban’s resurgence.
The White House, State Department, and Defense Department have been reluctant to provide an exact number of Americans still left in the country, claiming that not every citizen registered upon arriving or deregistered upon leaving. However, some observers have pointed out that the qualifying language may be a verbal buffer, preparing the case that those Americans who fail to depart from the territory by the August 31 deadline chose that fate.