The State Department informed congressional staff Thursday that it is in touch with 363 US citizens in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave, two sources familiar with the call told CNN.
The figures presented on that call underscore the ongoing challenge faced by the Biden administration as Americans continue to come forward to seek help in leaving Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover and the chaotic US withdrawal.
Thursday’s numbers — combined with evacuation figures since August 31 — present a far higher count of Americans looking to leave Afghanistan than the administration publicly estimated at the time of the US withdrawal.
The day prior to the US evacuation was completed at the end of August, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the State Department was tracking “a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”
More than 200 US citizens have been evacuated by the US government in the nearly two months since the military withdrawal, but the number of Americans who are seeking to leave Afghanistan is still in the range of 100 to 200 people.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price noted this week that that more people have come forward amid the ongoing evacuation efforts.
Biden administration officials have consistently pointed to the difficulty of tracking the number of US citizens in the country, and it is unclear how many total Americans were in the country at the time of the US withdrawal on August 31.
In his remarks at the end of August, Blinken noted that there “are long-time residents of Afghanistan who have American passports, and who were trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave.”
“Many are dual-citizen Americans with deep roots and extended families in Afghanistan, who have resided there for many years. For many, it’s a painful choice,” he said.
“If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now, and then in a week or a month or a year they reach out and say, ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ we will help them leave,” Blinken added.
On Thursday evening, Price tweeted that the US “has facilitated the departure of 234 U.S. citizens and 144 LPRs [lawful permanent residents] from Kabul since August 31.”
“These are the numbers of people whose individual departures we directly facilitated. An additional number of U.S. citizens and LPRs have departed on private charters or have independently crossed via a land border,” another State Department spokesperson told CNN Friday.
“The number of US citizens and LPRs we assist is dynamic as we review manifests, receive reports from colleagues in the field, and assist with departures,” they said.
In addition to the more than 100 US citizens who are seeking assistance in leaving Afghanistan, there are scores of Afghans — many of whom worked for the US military — who were left behind during the US military withdrawal and are desperately trying to leave.
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