During a press conference this Friday, the White House Press Secretary confirmed that the United States government “cannot guarantee” that all Americans who want to escape Afghanistan would be able to do so, saying that the President has ordered the Secretary of State to coordinate “diplomatic efforts” to ensure that those qualified Afghan nationals, green card holders, and American citizens who remain in the country after the evacuation ends can leave the country.
Psaki made this statement when answering a question about whether the U.S. had a commitment to evacuating Americans and Afghan allies after the August 31st deadline passes, implying that there will be Americans who would stay behind in Afghanistan once the American troops star winding down operations in the final days of the evacuation.
This assertion is in direct contrast with the promises of the Biden Administration just days earlier, when it promised that “any American who wants to come home, we will get you home”. Psaki said that while the U.S. government “cannot guarantee” the evacuation, that is the goal the administration is working towards.
The American military is scheduled to end its evacuation operations on August 31st, a decision that comes despite multiple American allies (like the UK) asking the U.S. to extend the deadline. However, after the Taliban threatened the U.S. of dire consequences if the American military extended its presence beyond August 31st, President Biden decided to stick with the original deadline.
Yesterday’s terrorist attacks, which were the deadliest day for American troops since 2011, also highlight the danger that Allied troops and civilians who desire to be evacuated face during the evacuation. The American military remains on high alert about possible future attacks to the retreating allied forces in Kabul’s airport, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby saying there are “specific, credible” threats against the integrity of the troops at the airport.
The Kabul Evacuation, in numbers
As of today, the U.S. and its allies have evacuated around 100,000 civilians from Kabul, with the American military evacuating up to 4,500 U.S. citizens and their families, although the total numbers of people evacuated by the U.S. are probably higher. The U.S. has also confirmed that there are around 1,500 American citizens in Afghanistan and that the State Department has been trying to contact them in order to get out of the country.
Allied nations have also evacuated thousands of Western civilians and Afghan allies from the Kabul airport, with the United Kingdom airlifting 13,700 British citizens and Afghan allies, Canada evacuating around 3,700 civilians, Germany rescuing 5,347 people (4,100 of them Afghans), and France evacuating 2,500 afghans and 100 French nationals. Many countries like Italy, Poland, Hungary, Australia, Belgium, and others have also ramped up their evacuation efforts since the Taliban took Kabul a few weeks ago.
However, despite the impressive numbers of civilians evacuated from Kabul, there are many concerns about the fate of those Western civilians who will remain in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and, especially, of the fate of thousands of Afghan nationals who aided the Coalition forces over the two-decade-long conflict.
The reports that the United States gave the Taliban a list with the names of U.S. civilians and Afghan allies have also amplified the preoccupation of those who would be left behind, as the Taliban have executed Afghan translators and others allies.
Whether the United States is able to coordinate the evacuation of Americans and Afghan civilians after the August 31st deadline remains to be seen, what remains clear is that it is now highly likely that many Americans would be left behind to fend for themselves in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.