The United States is continuing to evacuate Americans stranded in Afghanistan three and a half months after U.S. forces pulled out of the country.
The State Department announced on Monday that the federal government has so far aided 479 American citizens and 450 lawful U.S. residents and their immediate families evacuate the Taliban-controlled country. The State Department said that it is communicating with “fewer than a dozen U.S. citizens” still stuck in the country.
The Biden administration’s estimates of the number of U.S. citizens and residents that were trapped in Afghanistan have climbed steadily since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Additionally, through Operation Allies Welcome, the State Department continues to relocate our Afghan allies who worked with us and their families. These include more than 2,200 Afghans, many of whom are special immigrant visa holders, as well as SIV applicants who have Chief of Mission (COM) approval, a step required by the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009,” the State Department said in a press release.
The United States military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August, turning over control of the Middle East country to the Taliban, a U.S.-recognized terror group, for the first time in two decades. The U.S withdrawal was mired in chaos and violence as the Biden administration rushed to complete the withdrawal by a self-imposed deadline of August 31.
The U.S. military left hundreds of American civilians behind in Afghanistan, relying on the Taliban to facilitate their exit back to the United States. In addition to American civilians, the Biden administration abandoned potentially hundreds of thousands of the United States’ Afghan allies and their families who aided the U.S. fight against the Taliban for the past 20 years.
Biden hailed the withdrawal, which marked the end of the longest war in U.S. history, as an “extraordinary success.” Other White House officials were much more critical of the pullout, however. As Politico reported in August:
Not everyone in the administration shared the commander in chief’s confidence. “I am absolutely appalled and literally horrified we left Americans there,” one administration official told POLITICO. “It was a hostage rescue of thousands of Americans in the guise of a NEO [noncombatant evacuation operations], and we have failed that no-fail mission.” Another White House official said that the mission isn’t accomplished if they left Americans behind.
During the withdrawal, an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber attacked one of the main gates of Kabul’s airport, then the operational hub for the U.S. evacuation. The attack killed 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of Afghan civilians. On Monday, Biden claimed that the terror attack and deaths of the service members were unavoidable.
“Everybody says, ‘you could’ve gotten out without anybody being hurt,’” Biden told CBS News correspondent Rita Braver. “No one’s come up with a way to indicate to me how that happens.”