The Biden administration’s Department of Defense spokesperson admitted in an interview with CNN on Tuesday that it does not know how many American citizens remain in Afghanistan.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told CNN that there are “certainly thousands of Americans … we don’t have an exact count.”
“Best guess … between five and ten thousand that are near Kabul,” he continued. “There was a message put out by the State Department today advising those Americans about how to queue up and how to get to the airport so that now that security’s better, they don’t need to necessarily shelter in place.”
“They can begin movement to the airport for processing,” Kirby added.
WATCH: There could be up to *10,000* Americans still stuck in #Afghanistan trying to get out, but DOD spokesman John Kirby admits the Biden administration doesn't really know.
Unconscionable that Biden pulled out so rapidly that it left thousands of Americans in this situation. pic.twitter.com/6DP354SSrC
— John Cooper (@thejcoop) August 17, 2021
On Sunday, as the situation in Kabul deteriorated markedly, the State Department issued a security warning to all Americans remaining in the country, telling them to avoid coming to Kabul airport and, instead, shelter in place until their security could be guaranteed. On Monday, amid the crush of thousands of Afghans flooding the military runway at Kabul’s airport, trying to catch a flight out rather than live under Taliban rule, the U.S. suspended evacuations.
Evacuations began again Monday night.
The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin noted on Monday that there could be as many as 10,000 Americans still trapped in and around Kabul, many struggling to reach safety. It is also not clear whether the airport is in American control. Just 700 people were evacuated on Monday.
White House: Kabul airport is open, flights are able to land and depart, including on civilian side. 3,500 troops are on the ground. U.S. military flights are taking off w/ U.S. citizens & U.S. Embassy personnel on board. 700+ evacuated Monday including 150 U.S. citizens.
— Ed O'Keefe (@edokeefe) August 17, 2021
“An administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record told me that there are an estimated 10,000 U.S. citizens in the country, with the vast majority in or near Kabul,” Rogin wrote. “Some are residents, journalists, or aid workers who may not want to leave. Most are scrambling to escape. Some are dual nationals or children of Americans who may not have the proper passport or visas, but the State Department has not told them how to fix their paperwork.”
‘The State Department is also dealing with more than 80,000 visa applications for Afghans who worked with the U.S. government or find themselves at risk,” the official told Rogin.
They are in danger, according to staffers who spoke to the outlet.
“American citizens’ houses have been ransacked, and they are in hiding because the Taliban are terrorizing and tormenting neighborhoods. That’s happening all over Kabul,” a “senior GOP congressional staffer” told Rogin, noting that their office had been “fielding calls” from desperate Americans left on the ground. “There are a lot of people who are falling through the cracks. [The administration] didn’t have a plan to handle this on a mass scale…For the people in Kabul, they’ve basically said it’s up to them to get to the airport.”
The concern is now that these thousands of Americans could become Taliban hostages.
“Biden administration officials are very busy trying to spin the fall of Kabul away from a story about their own incompetence,” Rogin noted. “They argue that the intelligence was wrong, that the Afghan government didn’t stand firm, that the Taliban would have won eventually. Some officials are even claiming that they planned for this contingency. But the frantic calls of U.S. citizens begging for information render all those explanations and excuses irrelevant for the moment.”