More than 20,000 Afghan refugees have already entered the United States since the evacuation from Kabul airport began following the Taliban takeover of the country, the State Department said Wednesday.
State Department spokesman Ned Price did not specify what type of visa they had but said at a press conference that most were “Afghans at risk.”
The evacuees are located in military bases prepared for their accommodation in the states of Virginia, Wisconsin and Texas, among others, while their legal status in the country is being formalized.
This number is, however, only a part of the total of 124,000 evacuees evacuated between August 14 and 31 by American and international coalition troops.
The Pentagon said that approximately another 20,000 Afghans are in transit centers in countries overseen by the Central Command, which controls much of the Middle East; and about 23,000 more are in bases located in seven European countries.
Price also noted that 4,500 U.S. citizens have already returned to the country as part of the evacuation effort, and acknowledged that about 100 remain in Afghanistan.
The United States completed the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan on August 31 after 20 years of war.
The Biden administration has been heavily criticized by Republicans and veterans for “leaving behind” Americans in the Central Asian country and for its handling of the withdrawal, which saw scenes of chaos at Kabul airport.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted Wednesday that he is aware that these have been difficult days for many, referring to the death of 13 soldiers last Thursday in an Islamic State (IS) terrorist group attack on the capital’s airport, which also left dozens of Afghans dead and wounded.