Senior officials in the Biden administration said on Tuesday they would provide long-awaited details soon on the number of Americans still stranded in Afghanistan amid mounting bipartisan pressure to ensure no Americans were left behind. account after the Taliban takeover.
While the Pentagon has said about 4,000 US passport holders and their families have been evacuated in chaotic rescue operations, the White House has yet to reveal exactly how many Americans have not been able to leave. Days away from President Biden’s Aug.31 deadline, administration officials have a “political incentive” to keep the details vague, according to Nathan Sales, former Goodwill Ambassador and Counterterrorism Coordinator in the Department of ‘US state.
“I think the administration sees real political vulnerability because the message ‘leave no one behind, leave no American behind’ is a message that really resonates with the American people,” Fox News Sales told Fox now. senior member of the Atlantic Council. “The smaller the denominator, the less likely they are to be criticized for failing to effectively evacuate vulnerable Americans. “
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The White House has faced mounting criticism for its inability to provide an accurate figure. Several senior administration officials, including Pentagon spokesman John Kirby and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, said they did not know the number.
Biden raised concerns about ambiguity during his White House speech.
“I asked the sec. Blinken to give you an update and a detailed report on the exact number of Americans still in Afghanistan, how many are out and what our projection is, ”Biden said.
The president said US authorities had evacuated 70,700 people since August 14 and were “close” to meeting his August 31 deadline – a claim disputed by some within his own party. Earlier this week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Said it was “highly unlikely” that the United States would be able to complete its evacuation operations by August 31.
The administration’s inability to provide more details on the Americans on the ground in Kabul has heightened concerns that some could be left behind in a chaotic withdrawal. The Taliban have reportedly blocked some evacuation candidates from reaching the airport, and representatives of the group have said they will support “no extensions” beyond Biden’s August 31 withdrawal date.
Psaki rebuffed criticism after Fox News’ Peter Doocy noted during his Tuesday press briefing that some Americans had been unable to contact U.S. officials about their evacuation. She reiterated that the Biden administration was “committed to bringing home Americans who want to leave,” adding that U.S. officials are working around the clock to contact Americans known to still be in the country.
“Just to remind you that the US government does not follow our citizens as they travel the world,” Psaki said. “We rely on self-declaration, not just in Afghanistan, all over the world. People have to decide whether to sign up or not. It is up to them, to the individuals, to decide whether or not to register, wherever they are.
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The State Department will provide an “exact number” on Wednesday, Psaki added.
But verifying the exact number of Americans who require evacuation will prove difficult, given the fragile conditions in Kabul and limited US capabilities on the ground.
“I think they don’t really have a good idea of the number,” Sales said. “In the chaos that has happened due to the administration’s imperfect execution of the withdrawal, I think it’s just very, very difficult for them to keep tabs on everyone who is there. I guess we continue to see imprecise numbers and ambiguity coming out of the State Department. “