Blinken estimates 1,500 Americans may still await evacuation

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that up to 1,500 Americans could be waiting for evacuation from Afghanistan. This figure suggests that this portion of the U.S. airlift could be completed by Tuesday's deadline set by President Joe Biden. However, thousands of Afghans at risk are still unable to access Kabul's airport.

Blinken estimates 1,500 Americans may still await evacuation

Blinken stated that the State Department estimated that there were approximately 6,000 Americans who wanted out of Afghanistan at the time the airlift began on Aug. 14. And that around 4,500 of these Americans have been evacuated. The State Department has not yet released a figure of how many Americans sought to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country.

Blinken stated that "Some people are understandably very afraid," at a news conference hosted by the State Department.

Around 500 Americans were contacted to receive instructions on how to reach Kabul's chaotic airport in order to catch evacuation flights.

1000 people or less are being contacted to find out if they want to stay. Blinken stated that some of them may have already left the country and others may still want to stay.

Blinken stated that of the 1,000 who have "actively sought assistance" to leave Afghanistan, "the number is lower -- probably significantly lower."

Biden's administration insists that American evacuees should be its top priority. However, it also attempts to airlift Afghans who served the U.S. government or military in Afghanistan or helped to build Afghan civil society over the 20-year conflict. It also attempts to rescue "vulnerable Afghans", those who fear they will face retribution by the Taliban for their opposition to the insurgency.

Blinken stated that Tuesday's deadline was irrelevant. He said, "There is not a deadline on our work to assist any remaining American citizens who decide to leave. Along with the many Afghans who stood by us over these many decades and who want to leave but have been unable, there is no deadline." This effort will continue every day past August 31.

Biden stated Tuesday that he had asked his national security team to prepare contingency plans for the event that he extends the deadline.

The U.S. Embassy Kabul has been evacuated. Staff are currently operating out of the Kabul airport. They are due to depart by August 31.

Refugee groups, however, are reporting a very different picture of Afghanistan. They describe a chaotic, barely-there U.S. effort to evacuate Afghan allies, leaving the most desperate to risk being beaten and killed at Taliban checkpoints.

According to reports, some Afghans were denied entry at Kabul's airport because they did not have permission for flight.

Sunil Varghese (Policy Director, International Refugee Assistance Project), stated that "It's 100% up the Afghans to accept these risks and try their way out." "Those who have young children or are pregnant will take the beatings to get out."

His group is just one of many that work with the U.S. government and communicate with clients and colleagues on ground to rescue the most vulnerable Afghans from the Taliban. These include Afghans who have previously worked with Americans as well as journalists and women's rights activists.

Only days remain before the U.S. military will begin to withdraw its anchoring role from a huge operation in Afghanistan. The White House claims that this massive operation has helped evacuate 82,300 Afghans and Americans on a mixture of private, international, and U.S. flights. Trump and the Taliban negotiated a 2020 agreement.

Taliban leaders, who have taken control of Afghanistan this month, say that they won't tolerate extensions to Tuesday's deadline. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, tweeted that people with legal documents will be allowed to fly commercially after Tuesday.

Speaking on background to discuss sensitive issues, U.S.-based organisations cite testimony from the ground that some Americans and relatives of Afghans with green card have still difficulty getting into Kabul Airport for flights.

Kirby stated that the U.S. military would preserve as much of the airport's airlift capacity as possible over the next few days ahead of Tuesday's deadline. He stated that the military would "continue to evacuate the most vulnerable populations until the end." He said that the balance will be needed in the last days and hours to get out both evacuees and U.S. troops with their equipment.

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor was the deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and stated that U.S forces had performed another helicopter mission outside the airport perimeter to rescue people who were trying to flee.

He stated that the operation took place in Kabul at night and that people were safe now at the airport, awaiting evacuation flights.

Taylor did not provide any additional details. However, Germany's top military commander Gen. EberhardZorn stated separately that the U.S. helicopter had taken 21 German citizens. He claimed that the helicopter crew was American, and that the German troops had picked up the evacuees.

Biden expressed varying levels of commitment during White House news conferences as well as remarks during the airlift to include former Afghan translators and other people most at risk from Taliban in the airlift.

The U.S. diplomatic and military officials are still compiling a list for eligible Afghans, but have not yet disclosed how and how many they might be getting out, according to private Americans and American organizations.

"We still have 1,200 Afghans without visas that are outside of the airport and haven’t got in," James Miervaldis, with No One Left Behind said. He is one of many veterans groups trying to free Afghans who served with the U.S military for nearly 20 years. "We are waiting to hear back from the US. "We haven't heard from the US yet."

Ascend, an American-based nonprofit that developed fitness and leadership in Afghan girls, and young women, received calls from the U.S. telling them to send their interns and staffers for evacuation flights. But, American forces kept the gates closed to prevent the crowds outside.

LeGree stated that one Afghan intern went to the airport with her family and saw a person die in front of them. A female colleague was also burned by a caustic agent.

LeGree, American director of the group, said that it was heartbreaking to see his government fail so badly. He is currently in Italy, but remains in close contact with Kabul.

Kirby stated Wednesday that the number of U.S. troops stationed at the airport dropped by 400 to 5,400. However, the final withdrawal has not started.

He stated that Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, will meet directly with Gen. Frank McKenzie (head of Central Command, overseer of evacuation operation), before McKenzie makes the final withdrawal.

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