There are an estimated 150 American citizens left in Afghanistan whom the United States need to get to the airport, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The source said the estimate is the number known to need assistance to reach the airport as of 8 a.m. local time on Thursday morning.
They added that since midnight local time, 200 had been evacuated to the base and flown out. This brings the total US citizens evacuated since August 14 to 4,700, the source added.
The statement suggests the operational total of Americans needing to be evacuated is smaller than the broader totals provided by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Blinken said on Wednesday afternoon that there were 500 Americans identified who needed help to get to the airport. Blinken added there were another 1,000 who might need help, but whose citizenship or desire to leave were uncertain. Given the rate of evacuation overnight, the 150 operational total may be a revised update on Blinken’s total of 500, and may even include some of the 1,000 uncertain cases.
The source added there was another 36 hours until the end of the operation to evacuate, and the focus was now on local Afghan staff who worked for the US Embassy. “American citizens are still trickling in but their priority has shifted to local staff,” the source said.
The source estimated there were about 1,800 local US Embassy Afghan staff still to get to the airport and “36 hours to do it.” They had already recovered 1,300 local staff and evacuated them, they said.
Access to the base is increasingly difficult, the source said. The source added that all the gates on the base were now closed, apart from the one that Afghan security forces were unofficially using to bring in their evacuees.
The main access point at the airport for many holders of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), the Abbey Gate, was “fully” closed earlier on Thursday, possibly due to one of many IED threats, they added. “They were kind of able to pull people through yesterday but I think it’s totally cleared out and closed now. They’ve had multiple IED threats the whole time.”
The source added that gate closures mean there are “tons of special interest groups circling the airport in buses trying to figure out how to get in. Very little that can be done for them even though they’d love to help. So literally no one else can get in,” unless they are escorted. “Not even approved SIVs.”
The source expressed frustration at how Washington DC connections were forcing the operation to prioritize certain individuals. “These boutique special interest Congressional/WH groups that keep showing up are distracting from the core mission of getting those people out who we, the US, gave our word to.”
The source said the evacuation operation – although already winding down — would end Friday. The source added the British were departing on Thursday night. CNN has contacted the UK Ministry of Defence for comment.