Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s latest presser on Afghanistan was what we have come to expect. After days of news stories and questions from the press about the number of Americans left in Afghanistan, Blinken ponied up some numbers. Unfortunately, they don’t add up.
According to Blinken, more than 82,300 individuals have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August, 4,500 of them Americans. When Blinken discussed the number of Americans who remain, he qualified it by describing them as those “who want to leave the country.” This phrase matches the “not stranded” narrative pushed by White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier this week.
The number who remain, according to Blinken, is significantly lower than previous estimates. He said that as many as 6,000 Americans were in Afghanistan at the beginning of the operation on August 14. If you subtract the 4,500 already evacuated, that leaves only 1,500 remaining. But on August 17, The Washington Post reported that between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans remain inside the country.
The administration’s numbers are not adding up. NBC reported on August 17 that more than 4,300 American citizens and their families had been evacuated. If that’s true, only 200 of Blinken’s 4,500 have been evacuated in the last eight days. Blinken’s totals do not appear to include all the family members. He said the State Department has been in direct contact with approximately 500 Americans and had provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely.
Blinken provided no details on how these individuals are supposed to traverse their routes safely. However, The Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA and American troops are conducting missions to extract Americans by helicopter. Way to tell the Taliban, al-Queda, and ISIS-K what we are up to.
The administration has faced hostility from the media when reports of France and the U.K. extracting their citizens surfaced. Perhaps this strategic leak was supposed to build confidence that the U.S. is doing everything possible to remove our citizens. It just ensures that our enemies know what is going on when they hear a chopper overhead, putting our military and our remaining citizens in more danger. U.S. defense officials already told CNN they are concerned about “a very specific threat stream” from ISIS-K about planned attacks against crowds outside the Kabul airport.
President Biden echoed these concerns on Tuesday, saying, “Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both US and allied forces and innocent civilians.” Apparently, the guarantees from the Taliban ensuring the safety of Americans trying to access the airport aren’t guaranteeing much of anything.
Here’s the money quote from Blinken (emphasis his): “For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day. Through multiple channels of communication. Phone, e-mail, text messaging to determine if they still want to leave, and to get the most up to date information and instructions to them for how to do so.”
He went on to say that roughly 1,000 people on the list are not “seeking to leave Afghanistan.” Keep in mind that this follows audio of an American woman trapped in Afghanistan with the Taliban going door to door, as our editor, Paula Bolyard, reported on August 23:
Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.V.) shared a harrowing plea from an American who has been unable to get to the airport in Kabul.
“The Taliban are going to come and kill us, I’m really scared,” the woman wept. “Please help me!”
There have also been credible stories of Americans approaching the Kabul airport getting beaten and pushed back. An increasing number of reports indicate that security around the airport is degrading rapidly, and President Biden has reiterated that the operation will end by the August 31 deadline. Blinken is setting up Americans to believe that an unspecified number of our fellow citizens don’t want to leave Afghanistan, when they may have been killed or captured. The State Department has no idea why these 1,000 people are not responding.
And we still don’t have a solid number of citizens, including family members, who remain. On “Meet the Press” Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said there were still several thousand Americans in Afghanistan. That does not match Blinken’s accounting. Either the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, or the administration knows precisely the narrative they want to create. that they got all Americans home who “wanted” to leave Afghanistan.
WATCH Blinken’s full remarks: