Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that he estimates about 1,500 Americans are still in Afghanistan as the August 31st withdrawal deadline is approaching. Since the airlift started on August 14th, the US has evacuated over 4,500 US citizens.
Blinken said over the past day, the US has been in direct contact with about 500 Americans who are looking to get out. He believes there is an additional 1,000 Americans that may want to evacuate, who the US has been “aggressively reaching out to,” although the number could be significantly lower.
“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,” Blinken said of the additional 1,000 Americans. “Thus, from this list of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower.”
So far, 82,300 people have been evacuated from the Kabul airport, mostly Afghans seeking refuge. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 19,000 evacuees were flown out on 90 US military and coalition flights.
Blinken said the US is “on track” to complete the evacuation mission by August 31st, as long as the Taliban “continue to cooperate.” President Biden said on Tuesday that he plans to stick with the August 31st withdrawal deadline, although he ordered “contingency plans” for if he changes his mind and decides to stay. The Taliban has warned there would be “consequences” if foreign troops remain come September.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that 400 US troops have been drawn down from the Kabul airport, bringing the number of US soldiers on the ground down to 5,400.