WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the U.S. estimates that about 1,500 American citizens remain in Afghanistan and may be awaiting evacuation as the Aug. 31 deadline looms.
In a press conference, Blinken said that on Aug. 14, there were as many as 6,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, and over the last 10 days, roughly 4,500 of those Americans have been evacuated along with their immediate family members. He added that more than 500 of those citizens were evacuated over the last day alone.
Over the past 24 hours, Blinken said the U.S. has been in direct contact with about 500 additional Americans and has provided specific instructions on how they can get to the Kabul airport safely, so they can evacuate.
For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that the Biden administration has who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, Blinken says they’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day through multiple channels of communication to determine whether they still want to leave and to get them the most up to date information and exit instructions.
“Some may no longer be in the country, some may have claimed to be Americans but turn out not to be, some may choose to stay,” said Blinken. “We’ll continue to try to identify the status and plans of these people in the coming days. Thus, from this of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower.”
Blinken told reporters that these are “dynamic calculations” that the administration is working hour by hour to refine for accuracy. He said the number of American citizens remaining in the country is difficult to pin down for a number of reasons, including because the U.S. doesn’t track Americans’ movements as they travel around the world and it’s voluntary to enroll and disenroll with U.S. embassies.
“Since Aug. 14, we’ve reached out directly to every American enrolled with us in Afghanistan, often multiple times,” said Blinken.
While evacuating Americans is the top priority, Blinken said the administration is also committed to getting out as many Afghans at risk as we can before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Blinken said the U.S. is on track to complete its mission by Aug. 31 provided the Taliban continue to cooperate and there are no disruptions. He said President Joe Biden has also asked for contingency plans in case he determines that we must remain in the country past that date.
“But let me crystal clear about this, there is no deadline on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to leave to do so along with the many Afghans who have stood by us over these many years and want to leave and have been unable to do so. That effort will continue every day past Aug. 31,” said Blinken.