No rush: Blinken says US in contact with Americans left behind in Afghanistan, no deadline to free them
The United States is staying in “constant contact” with Americans left behind during President Biden’s frantic evacuation from Afghanistan who still wish to leave, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday, offering no timeline for freeing them from Taliban rule.
On Tuesday, the US completed pulling all troops from the 20-year war, and ended their initial evacuation efforts for all Americans and Afghan allies in the country.
US troops helped evacuate more than 116,000 people from Kabul, as the Taliban took over the country, including 6,000 Americans. However, at least 100 Americans remain in the country, and a clear plan or timeline for helping them leave has not been publicly released.
Without specifying an exact number, Blinken told reporters Friday that the US is in constant contact with those Americans who “may still wish to leave,” and case management teams have been assigned to each remaining American citizen. The secretary of state was not pushed to specify how many Americans are left.
Blinken explained that most Americans remaining in the country are dual nationals living with their families, making it a “wrenching decision” on whether to leave or not.
In addition to American citizens remaining, the US has yet to provide an exact number of Afghan allies who received or applied for so-called Special Immigrant Visas who also remain in the embattled country. Those are expected to number in the thousands.
While the deadline for US troops to leave ended Aug. 31, Blinken emphasized that there is “no deadline” for evacuating the remaining Americans.
“As they desire to leave, we are going to make sure we do everything we can to help them do exactly that,” he said.
Blinken declined to share more details on the Americans left, or the guidance they are receiving, in order to protect them and protect the tactics the US may plan to use.
Over the past few days, the Biden administration has consistently used vague language around how many Americans remain stuck in Afghanistan.
Immediately following the withdrawal, the Pentagon said several hundred Americans remained. Meanwhile on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the number of US passport holders stuck in Taliban-controlled territory is “likely closer to 100, perhaps considerably closer to 100.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that number on Thursday, affirming the State Department is “working in close coordination with them to determine how they can leave the country [or] if they’ve left the country.”
While Psaki said the US does not have “personnel on the ground, nor do we have air assets in the country,” Blinken revealed the US is considering using ground routes to other countries instead of flights when getting people out of Afghanistan.