Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose office has been working to rescue two elderly Americans from Afghanistan, says that roughly 500 Americans are still stranded in the country, a figure that contradicts White House figures.
“We won’t have done our duty unless we continue and get the remainder of our American citizens, and all those otherwise eligible out,” Issa told The Associated Press (AP).
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Issa estimates that the number of people stranded in Afghanistan could reach 1,000 if family members of US nationals are included.
According to the news agency, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) claimed that the Biden administration must give the full number of individuals left behind in the South Asian country.
“The issue is that it excludes families,” he explained. “They’re exaggerating the figures.”
On Sept. 5, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told CNN that he believed roughly 100 Americans are still in Afghanistan, whereas President Joe Biden estimated last week that about 100 to 200 Americans were still there. The final U.S. military evacuation flight from Kabul airport took place a week ago, formally ending the United States’ 20-year presence in the country.
“We estimate it to be around a hundred. Klain, a key Biden aide, told CNN, “We’re in communication with all of them that we’ve identified on a regular basis.”
According to him, some Americans and Afghans are “coming out” of Afghanistan via land travel.
The White House is “continue to work on ways to get them out via air as well,” he said. “We’ll keep moving those [Special Immigrant Visa holders] out of the country.”
Aside from Issa, some veteran-led rescue groups told the Associated Press that the estimate of little more than 200 Americans remaining is too low.
Mike Jason, who manages the Allied Airlift 21 rescue mission, told the news organization that he believes the figure is far higher, and that it’s also misleading because it doesn’t include family members of Americans stranded there. Alex Plitsas, an Iraq War veteran and member of the Digital Dunkirk rescue network, said he received calls from six Americans caught in the nation in one day earlier this week, none of whom had registered with the US Embassy.
Plitsas, a former intelligence officer in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press that the White House figure could be hundreds wrong.
He continued, “Those names are starting to trickle out now.” “I believe that number will dramatically increase.”
White House officials estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans were in Afghanistan before the Afghan government and army completely crumbled and the Taliban gained control. More than 120,000 people, including Afghans and Americans, were evacuated from Kabul airport last week, according to Biden.
By press time, no one from the US State Department had responded to a request for comment.