The U.S. State Department admitted that there are far more American citizens still in Afghanistan than prior estimates that President Joe Biden and his administration offered, according to a report.
The State Department informed congressional staff that it is in contact with 363 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan, 176 of whom wish to leave the Taliban-controlled country, CNN reported on Friday.
Officials reportedly said that they had evacuated 218 American citizens and 131 legal permanent residents out of Afghanistan since Aug. 31 — the deadline to have all U.S. military forces out of the country.
CNN reporters were perplexed by the high number of Americans evacuated since the withdrawal deadline and citizens who were still in Afghanistan since the Biden administration had repeatedly said the number of U.S. citizens in the country is fewer.
CNN White House correspondent Phil Mattingly pointed out that the latest information of Americans in Afghanistan is "significantly higher than the estimates of roughly 100 in Aug. which admin officials regularly cited."
Jennifer Hansler, a CNN reporter who covers the State Department for the network, noted, "176 people combined with evacuation figures since August 31 present a far higher count of Americans looking to leave Afghanistan than admin publicly estimated when US withdrew. State spox says more people have come forward amid ongoing evacuation efforts."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Aug. 30, "We believe there are still a small number of Americans – under 200 and likely closer to 100 – who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. We're trying to determine exactly how many."
On Aug. 31, President Biden stated, "Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave."
Biden previously vowed to not strand any Americans in Afghanistan. He told ABC News on Aug. 18, "If there's American citizens left, we're gonna stay to get them all out."
During a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Sept. 13, Blinken reiterated that about 100 U.S. citizens were in Afghanistan.
"As of the end of last week, we had about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who told us they want to leave the country," Blinken said.
On Sept. 27, a senior State Department official reportedly said there were about 100 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are ready to leave Kabul.
As recently as Monday, the State Department was still using the estimate of 100 to 200 Americans still in Afghanistan.
"That range has been anywhere from below a 100 – right now it is somewhere in between 100 and 200 given that some Americans have – additional Americans have raised their hands, seeing our ability to effect their safe departure," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, adding that the estimate "is not static" and "is not immutable precisely" because some citizens could come forward for the first time.
Last month, a permanent U.S. resident and former combat interpreter who worked with the U.S. military revealed that "there are a lot of people still left behind" in Afghanistan.
"The Biden administration left without any plan, and that is why there are thousands of allies who worked for the U.S. military, American citizens, Afghan Americans, all stuck here," he said.