Navigation
  •  

11,000+ Americans remain in Afghanistan – only hundreds evacuated so far

A C-130J Super Hercules at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 9, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)
August 17, 2021

At least 11,000 Americans in Afghanistan have identified themselves to the State Department and thousands more – an estimated 15,000 – could still be in the country.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that 11,000 U.S. citizens self-reported to the State Department, however, national security officials told Senate aides on Tuesday that there are as many as 15,000 U.S. citizens left in the country, according to The Washington Post.

Brig. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that roughly 1,400 people had been evacuated from Kabul since August 14. Late Monday night into Tuesday, seven evacuation flights left Kabul with approximately 700 people, including 165 American citizens.

The Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was secure and evacuation flights were taking place as of Tuesday, according to U.S. Central Command commander Gen Frank McKenzie — a stark contrast from the gunfire and chaos that disrupted flights out of the airport on Sunday.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. has asked Americans to “come to the airport to get on flights and take them home,” but confirmed that the U.S. has received reports of “people being turned away or pushed back, or even beaten.” He added that the U.S. was concerned that the issues could continue, and said U.S. officials were holding talks with Taliban officials to try to “resolve those issues.”

“As it stands right now, we are getting people through the gate, we are getting them lined up, and we are getting them on the planes,” Sullivan said.

As recent as one day earlier, Americans were told to “shelter in place” and avoid attempts to travel to the airport until they heard otherwise from a U.S. government agency, Department of State spokesman Ned Price said.

Price said that many Americans are in Kabul and others are not, but he did not mention the total number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan, or how Americans outside of Kabul could leave the country. Senate aides told Washington Post that administration officials say there’s currently no plan to evacuate Americans outside of Kabul due to impassable Taliban checkpoints.

Multiple administration officials have said that each U.S. military and commercial flight has the capacity for hundreds of passengers, but many seats remain empty because of processes required for evacuees.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that the U.S. has the capacity to fly out 5,000 to 9,000 people from Kabul per day if the airport can continue to be secured without evacuation flights being interrupted. At full capacity, he said, evacuation flights should be able to reach completion by President Joe Biden’s August 31 full withdrawal deadline.

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sky News on Tuesday that the group is “committed not to attack” Americans leaving Afghanistan, and added that they should complete withdrawal before September 11. It’s unclear what consequences they may inflict on Americans if that deadline is not met.