Up to 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan, State Department says

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As many as 1,500 American citizens could still be in Afghanistan, the State Department has revealed, but the exact figure is still unknown.

With six days remaining until the US is due to withdraw all of its forces from the country, secretary of state Anthony Blinken said there were around 6,000 Americans who wanted to leave when evacuations began on 14 August. Since then, roughly 4,500 people have been evacuated. He added that the department was still trying to determine the precise number, and of that number, how many still wanted to leave.

The Biden administration has been under pressure to reveal how many American citizens are still in the country as the 31 August deadline for a complete US withdrawal approaches.

Mr Blinken said there were delays in attaining the numbers because “some may no longer be in the country, some may have claimed to be Americans, but turned out not to be. Some may choose to stay”.

“We will continue to try to identify the status and plans of these people in the coming days,” he added.

The Pentagon said earlier on Wednesday that more than 80,000 people have been evacuated since 14 August, including thousands of Afghans who worked with US forces during the 20-year conflict.

Mr Blinken said State Department officials have been working to safely process the evacuations of Americans who want to leave, and tracking down those who have been out of contact.

“Over the past 24 hours we have been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely,” he said in a press conference.

“For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we are aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication – phone, email, text message – to determine whether they still want to leave and to get the most up to date information and instructions to them for how to do so,” he added.

The massive US airlift from Kabul’s international airport began when Taliban forces reached the capital on 14 August.

Joe Biden had committed to honouring a deal brokered by his predecessor, Donald Trump, to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of August. But the withdrawal was thrown into chaos when the Afghan army collapsed.

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