No One Seems Sure How Many Americans Remain In Afghanistan, But Whatever You Do, Don’t Say They’re “Stranded”
[guest post by Dana]
President Biden yesterday, facing pressure from both sides of the aisle and expected pressure from European allies, has confirmed that he is involved in discussions about extending the Aug. 31 deadline:
“There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending,” he said. “Our hope is we will not have to extend.”
However, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen warned that Aug. 31 deadline is a “red line” and that there would be consequences if Americans stayed past the deadline:
"The foreign military withdrawal should be complete by 31st August" @suhailshaheen1 spokesperson for the Taliban says the group do not want any delays and if international forces extend their stay in Afghanistan, there will be consequences pic.twitter.com/NtvQPRSA5W
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) August 23, 2021
“So if they extended, that means they are extending occupation,” he said. While there is no need for that, I think it will deteriorate the relation, it will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, so it will provoke a reaction.”
While “the Pentagon said Monday that the U.S. has evacuated or facilitated the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14, with about 10,400 of them airlifted out over the weekend,” the White House doesn’t really know how many Americans remain in Afghanistan:
“We don’t have a precise number and there’s a reason for that,” Communications Director Kate Bedingfield told CNN, adding that is partly because the current count “includes people who may have left the country, who may have left over the course of the last six months.”
“What we’re doing is working to identify how many Americans are there,” Bedingfield said.
Moreover, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby was vague about the number of Americans still needing to be rescued:
Kirby was similarly vague when asked to provide the number of Americans who have been evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, describing the total as “very fluid” and changing “nearly by the hour.”
“We think that, overall, we’ve been able to evacuate several thousand Americans,” Kirby said. “And I’d be reticent to get … more specific than that.”
Estimates have ranged from 5,000 to 15,000.
And today White House press secretary Jen Psaki got defensive when asked about Americans “stranded” in Afghanistan:
"I think it's irresponsible to say Americans are 'stranded'" — Jen Psaki to Peter Doocy pic.twitter.com/0ZwZ8BkZ19
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 23, 2021
Apparently, Politico is not in agreement with Psaki:
The Pentagon revealed it had performed another rescue mission to transport Americans stranded in Kabul to the capital’s airport, and that rescue missions by U.S. troops have been more frequent than officials have thus far acknowledged https://t.co/ev3O92mvca
— POLITICO (@politico) August 23, 2021
Call me irresponsible, but if I were an American in Afghanistan today, with the Taliban everywhere and in control of pretty much everything, and I couldn’t make it safely to the airport, I’m positive that I would feel “stranded,” and terrified, and overwhelmed by a desperate fear that no one was going to get me out of there. But that’s just me. You be the judge:
An American woman called a US representative and tearfully begged for help getting out of Taliban-run Afghanistan.
Rep. Carol Miller of West Virginia on Saturday posted a recording of the call to Twitter. In the recording, a woman’s voice is heard, wavering and breaking up at times over her own tears.
“Hour by hour, it’s getting more difficult,” she said.
“Even when the cars pass by I feel like they’re gonna stop by that door out there, the Taliban, and they’re gonna come and they’re gonna kill us,” she continued, crying in between words.
“I’m really scared,” she said, pleading for help before the audio trails off.
Miller said in her tweet that the woman was “attacked each time she tried to reach the airport.” Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking for more information about the attacks.
We just received this audio from an incredibly brave American in Kabul. She was attacked each time she tried to reach the airport. Despite the danger to herself, she wants us to share this. We must guarantee the safety of Americans and our allies before it is too late. pic.twitter.com/Oq6R7YuWuJ
— Rep. Carol Miller (@RepCarolMiller) August 21, 2021
P.S. CNN is reporting that the US military is giving President Biden their own deadline for decision about whether he will extend the Aug. 31 deadline:
The US military is advising President Joe Biden that he must decide by Tuesday whether to extend the evacuation in Afghanistan beyond August 31, according to a defense official directly familiar with the discussions.
Military advisers have told the White House that the decision must be made by Tuesday in order to have enough time to withdraw the 5,800 troops currently on the ground, as well as their equipment and weapons. If the President agrees, the military anticipates “a few more days” of trying to evacuate as many people as possible before the drawdown of US forces begins, possibly at the end of this week.