Associated Press reporter Matt Lee confronted State Department spokesman Ned Price at a press briefing Wednesday on the number of green card holders remaining in Afghanistan and whether the U.S. planned to evacuate them.
President Joe Biden defended the evacuation from Afghanistan during an address Tuesday by claiming that 90% of U.S. citizens who wanted to leave the country were evacuated. The last U.S. flight out of the country departed Monday from Kabul, marking the end of the nearly 20-year combat mission in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted between 100 and 200 U.S. citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan had been left behind. But the Biden administration has not specified how many green card holders, or lawful permanent residents (LPRs), remain in the country.
“Was there a decision made, at some point, to forget about [green card holders] and only allow U.S. passport holders into the airport through your checkpoints and onto planes?” Lee asked.
“A lot of them quite frankly feel like they got screwed and that they were lied to because they had been told by people on the task force, ‘We know where you are, we’re not going to strand you, stay tight,'” he continued. “And now, what do they do? Are you in touch with the green card holders?
“Let me start by saying we have a special responsibility to American citizens, and that is spelled out in 22 US Code § 4802, it is spelled out in some detail there,” Price responded. “We also do have a commitment to LPRs, and we have been in touch with LPRs … Our commitment has not expired … and now we remain committed to bringing them out of Afghanistan if they should choose to do so.” (RELATED: State Dept. Official Says US Won’t Take Taliban ‘At Their Word’ Despite Outsourcing Kabul Security)
“The number when it comes to LPRs is of course going to be larger — it has been a more complex endeavor to determine with any specificity what that number may be. But we’re just not able at present to give you a firm figure as to how many LPRs may be in Afghanistan who wish to leave,” he added.
“You guys do know — it defies logic to think you guys don’t have even a rough estimate of the number of LPRs who are out there,” Lee interjected.
“We have endeavored throughout this to provide only numbers in which we have a high degree of confidence. There have been a lot of numbers thrown around — we have done everything we can to provide you with information that is both timely but that is also accurate,” Price insisted.
“Given the complexities involved in boiling down a number like that, not only taking the number of LPRs, but then boiling it down to how many LPRs wish to leave the country, that is something that will take time for us to offer publicly with some degree of precision,” he concluded.