Remember way back in August, when President Biden called the Afghanistan withdrawal mission an “extraordinary success” that left 13 service members dead, 18 more injured, and an unknown number of Americans stranded behind enemy lines?
At the time, the president said 90 percent of those Americans “who wanted to leave were able to leave.”
In September, the administration had estimated about 100 Americans were left in Afghanistan.
Then, at a press briefing last week, according to Fox News, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the number of Americans who actually wished to leave was at one point below 100 but was now between 100 and 200 amid a fluid situation on the ground.
But that number wasn’t true either.
Yesterday U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) questioned Dr. Colin Kahl, President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy asking for some clarity on the actual numbers of Americans left.
Inhofe said, "The administration's number of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan keeps changing. We all understand that, and it's very confusing. The administration always said 100 to 200 U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan, but it has already withdrawn 234 and is in contact with 363 others, 176 of whom want to leave.
There are still thousands of Americans unaccounted for based on Secretary Blinken’s earlier claim there were 10 to 15,000. Mid-August, Secretary of State Blinken tells the senators — we were all there — that 10,000 to 15,000 Americans were in Afghanistan. On the 31st of August, the administration claims it withdrew 6,000. Do the math — it’s worth saying, it withdrew 6,000 Americans from Afghanistan — this would mean somewhere between 4,000 and 9,000 Americans were left behind, but the administration says 100 to 200 are remaining."
"In October, the administration stated that 234 Americans have been evacuated since the 31st of August. The State Department says it’s in contact with 363 more Americans in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave. So at the very least, it's confusing."
Kahl replied (and see if you can follow this), "the validated numbers from the State Department during the NEO [non-combatant evacuation operation] were 6,000 Americans, We estimate we evacuated about 5,500. Since the end of the NEO, so since September 1, the State Department documented 240 American citizens who have departed Afghanistan since September 1st, and 157 green card holders. When you account for additional individuals who did not, were not arranged for travel outside Afghanistan by the U.S. government but came out through other private charters, DOD’s numbers total out to 314 AmCits total and 266 LPR [lawful permanent residents] total since the end of the NEO."
"In terms of how many American citizens we estimate are currently in Afghanistan, the Department of State is in contact with 196 American citizens who are ready to depart, and arrangements are being made for them to do so either via air or over ground, and another 243 American citizens have been contacted and are not ready to depart, either because they want to stay in Afghanistan or are not ready."
So that adds up to about 450 people.
And what does it mean when he says American citizens are “not ready?” It may be because they’re not ready to leave without their family members.
James Miervaldis, chairman of No One Left Behind, a private organization working to evacuate and resettle Afghan refugees, clarifies: “When the Americans say, ‘immediate family,’ that’s your spouse and your children. From an Afghan point of view, immediate family means spouse, children, sister, cousin, brothers; it’s a much larger definition.”
Katherine Schuette, a coordinator with Team America, says “We’re talking about parents of American citizens, brothers and sisters of American citizens, and it’s not that easy to say, ‘Leave your families behind.’ ”
But we still don’t know the actual number. The administration now finally admits the number is closer to 500 people remaining. Or is it really closer to 10 times that number?
We may never know the truth.
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