A leaked cable from the U.S. Department of State detailing the number of American citizens who have been successfully rescued from Afghanistan in recent weeks raises serious questions about the Biden administration's handling of evacuation efforts.
What are the details?
Biden administration officials have been inexplicably vague regarding both the number of Americans that have been evacuated and the number that remain stranded within the Taliban-controlled country, saying only that "several thousand" have been pulled out.
It turns out, their refusal to offer specifics may be due to the fact that their evacuation efforts have been largely unsuccessful.
According to a State Department cable — which was obtained by Politico national security reporter Alex Ward — as of Monday night, only 4,407 American citizens have made it onto outbound flights from Kabul since the evacuation operation began on Aug. 14.
The figure is particularly troubling given that low-end estimates indicated the number of American citizens present in Afghanistan prior to the U.S. military withdrawal was between 10,000 and 15,000. That number, however, could actually be much higher.
Still, even if the lowest number — 10,000 — is accepted, data outlined in the cable show that the Biden administration is less than halfway toward extracting every American with only one week to go.
Yet in the face of mounting criticism and concern, the Biden administration is projecting confidence about its evacuation mission.
"We are actually overperforming in terms of the evacuation numbers," Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday, according to Politico.
The outlet charged that "the West Wing is looking increasingly disconnected from reality" and "out of touch" with the situation on the ground as American citizens reportedly continue to be denied entry to the Kabul airport often under threat of violence.
Following warnings of retaliatory action from the Taliban, President Biden on Tuesday decided against extending the Aug. 31 deadline to depart Afghanistan, even as thousands of American citizens remain stranded in the country.
Evacuation operations appear to have significantly ramped up in recent days — the White House claims 21,600 people were flown out from Monday to Tuesday — though many still question whether the mission can be completed by next Tuesday.
Moreover, as U.S. officials tout updated evacuation figures they continue to list only total evacuees. To this point, officials have refused to give a public accounting of the number of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan, and thus Americans are still left to wonder.