A Pentagon official on Tuesday told the Senate Armed Services Committee there are still nearly 450 American citizens who have yet to be evacuated from Afghanistan, more than previously estimated by the administration.
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) that there are 439 American citizens still in Afghanistan, 76 more than the State Department had estimated were there on Friday, when it said there were 363 Americans still in Afghanistan. Both estimates are greater than the 100 to 200 number Secretary of State Antony Blinken said were left behind on Aug. 30, as U.S. forces were withdrawing from the war-torn nation.
On Tuesday, Inhofe asked Kahl to clarify the "confusing" numbers put forward by the administration since the troop withdrawal.
"One of the many confusing things about this whole thing is that we really don't know how many Americans are left in Afghanistan," Inhofe said. "The administration's number of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan keeps changing. We all understand that. It's very confusing."
He pointed out that the Biden administration "always said 100 to 200 U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan," but on Tuesday said it "has already withdrawn 234 and is in contact with 363 others, 176 of whom want to leave."
"Now if we can figure this out you're doing a lot better than I have done," Inhofe said.
In response, Kahl ran through the latest numbers he had on who was still in Afghanistan, who is ready to get out, and who has said they are not yet ready to leave.
"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 aren't ready," Kahl said.
Speaking at a news conference Friday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the number of Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave has fluctuated as more people come forward and ask for help leaving the country.
"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," Price said.