President Joe Biden defended his administration’s evacuation from Afghanistan during an address Tuesday by claiming that 90% of Americans who wanted to leave the country were evacuated successfully.
The remarks came one day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie admitted that there were at least 100 Americans, if not more, left behind in Afghanistan after the U.S. military completed its withdrawal. Biden said the U.S. reached out to Americans in Afghanistan 19 times to try to help them get out before the withdrawal was complete.
“Now we believe that about 100-200 Americans remain in Afghanistan, with some intention to leave,” Biden said. “Most of those who remain are dual-citizens, longtime residents, who earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.”
“The bottom line: 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave,” he continued. “And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.” (RELATED: ‘I’m An American, Please Open The Gate’: American Woman Trapped In Afghanistan Says She Is Scared For Her Safety)
Gen. McKenzie said Monday that some of the Americans who were left behind had been unable to reach the airport and therefore could not be “accommodated” on the last five military flights out of the country, none of which contained American civilians. Reports are emerging of Americans as young as two years old who are still stuck in the country, desperate to flee to safety but unable to reach the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
With the departure of American troops, that airport is now under Taliban control. Thousands of Afghan allies who helped the American war effort remain stranded, many under threat of execution by the Taliban. (RELATED: Pentagon Spox Passes The Buck On Afghanistan, Says Americans ‘Get Stranded’ Overseas ‘All The Time’)
“Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan,” Biden added. “After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis, and identified around 5,000 Americans who had decided earlier to stay in Afghanistan, but now wanted to leave. Our Operation Allied Rescue ended up getting more than 5,500 Americans out.”
Biden echoed comments made by Blinken and McKenzie that the ongoing effort to evacuate the remaining stranded Americans will be a diplomatic one, not a military one. It remains to be seen if the Taliban will allow the safe passage of the remaining Americans out of the country. Biden said 13 days ago the U.S. would not withdraw until every American was out.