Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin refused to confirm or deny reports that there are still thousands of Americans awaiting evacuation from Afghanistan following the United States military’s withdrawal but said it is his “personal belief” that the number is much lower.
The United States is slowly negotiating the safe passage of hundreds of Americans still trapped in Afghanistan and looking to leave, though the Biden administration State Department has been loathe to given an exact number of Americans who were in Kabul before coalition troops pulled out, as well as a number of how many American citizens have been evacuated from the country now in Taliban hands.
The numbers range from the low hundreds to the low thousands, and Austin was asked, in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on the Afghan withdrawal, whether there are 4,000 Americans still biding their time behind enemy lines.
“Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday he cannot ‘confirm or deny’ that there are 4,000 Americans still left in Afghanistan,” Fox News reported.
“I personally don’t believe that there are 4,000 American citizens still left in Afghanistan,” Austin said.
The State Department said, in the days following the U.S. withdrawal, that there were 100 to 200 Americans left behind in Afghanistan who wanted to leave. Subsequent evacuation flights, however, have removed hundreds, including a number of Americans. Sources on the ground in Kabul told The Daily Wire that there are still Americans left waiting, despite reports that the Taliban is becoming increasingly violent.
Austin, as well as United States Military Central Command (CENTCOM) chairman Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, are testifying Tuesday on the Biden administration’s difficult withdrawal from Afghanistan, and in at least one case — Milley — were clear that the mission was a partial “failure.”
“Democratic senators argued during the hearing that the chaotic U.S. military evacuation of 124,000 people out of Afghanistan was a success, despite the Aug. 26 terrorist attack that left 13 U.S. service members dead,” Fox News reported, but Milley was clear that the mission could not be qualified as a more than a “logistical success.”
“It was a logistical success, but a strategic failure,” Milley said. “And I think those are two different.”
The three military leaders also seemed to contradict the White House, which indicated, in August, that the president was not aware Afghanistan was so close to collapse, and that a small force of 2,500 troops could keep the country stable.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) denounced the president over the revelation, suggesting Biden was trying to “cover his a**” by claiming he was never given the right information.
“President Biden lied when he told the American people that nobody urged him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” Sasse said in a statement sent to reporters. “Today, under oath, General McKenzie flatly contradicted the President. This is the worst American foreign policy disaster in a generation and the President is trying to cover his a** with political spin.”