US says about 1,500 citizens remain in Afghanistan


Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said about 1,500 Americans remain in Afghanistan and are waiting to be evacuated.

The Biden administration has been engaged in a furious effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies before Aug. 31, the deadline set for a complete exit from the country. 

Blinken said the U.S. has evacuated 82,300 people, including 4,500 people with U.S. passports, since Aug 14, the day before the Taliban took Kabul and completing its takeover of Afghanistan.  

He cautioned that the tally of Americans is highly fluid and changes almost hour to hour.

U.S. diplomats are in direct contact with 500 of the 1,500 Americans, and has provided instructions to those peoople on how to get to the airport safely, Blinken said.

“For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we're aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day through multiple channels of communication, phone, email, text messaging to determine whether they still want to leave, and to get the most up to date information and instructions to them for how to do so,” he said.

Blinken’s remarks provided the most concrete number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan that the administration has provided.

Biden has signaled no intention to change the Aug. 31 deadline for ending the evacuation effort, putting pressure on U.S. officials to complete the work.

There were reports on Wednesday of the CIA using clandestine operations to remove Americans in and out of Kabul, and also reports of the U.S. making plans to remove Americans post-Aug. 31 if necessary. 

While it’s unclear what groups of people make up the tens of thousands of people so-far evacuated, the administration has prioritized family members of Americans, U.S. long-term permanent residents, Afghans who worked alongside the U.S., so-called Special Immigrant Visa holders, foreign nationals and Afghans at risk of being targets for the Taliban based on their gender, ethnicity or work. 

Blinken said that between 45 to 46 percent of evacuees are women and children.

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