Between 100 and 200 Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan remain in the country following the final U.S. military withdrawal and evacuation efforts from Afghanistan.
U.S. Central Command leader Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters during a briefing Monday afternoon in Washington that the Americans who wanted to leave and who were not evacuated number in the “very low hundreds.”
Speaking on Monday evening, Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Pacific tsunami threat recedes, volcano ash hinders response Fears of Russian invasion of Ukraine rise despite US push for diplomacy MORE said that the number of Americans remaining is less than 200.
“We believe there are still a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. We’re trying to determine exactly how many,” Blinken said.
McKenzie said that no Americans were evacuated on the final five flights out of Kabul’s international airport, where the U.S. evacuation mission was located.
“We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out,” McKenzie said. “None of them made it to the airport and were able to be accommodated.”
While all U.S. troops have left Afghanistan, U.S. officials say diplomatic efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens and at-risk Afghans will continue. McKenzie expressed confidence U.S. officials would be able to evacuate these remaining Americans through diplomatic efforts.
“I believe that we’re going to get those people out. I think we’re also going to negotiate very hard and very aggressively to get our other Afghan partners out,” McKenzie said. “Our desire to bring these people out remains as intense as it was before.”
McKenzie later said he didn’t believe the U.S. military would have been able to evacuate the remaining Americans or at-risk Afghans even if troops had stayed past President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE’s Aug. 31 deadline.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. but I think if we stayed another 10 days ... we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out, and there still would have been people who would have been disappointed with that,” McKenzie said.
The developments are sure to trigger criticism of Biden, who earlier this month pledged to evacuate all Americans even if it meant pushing back the withdrawal date.
In a statement following the announcement of the completed withdrawal, Biden said he has asked Blinken “to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan.”
Biden also said it was the recommendation of all U.S. military commanders to withdraw by Aug. 31 as planned.
“Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead,” he said in the statement.
In total, U.S. military and coalition flights have evacuated more than 123,000 civilians since the end of July. White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiClyburn says he 'wholeheartedly' endorses Biden's voting rights remarks Democrats call on Biden to step up virus response New year brings more liberated Joe Biden MORE told reporters earlier Monday that 6,000 Americans wanting to leave Afghanistan had been evacuated or otherwise left the country. She did not provide the precise number of Americans remaining in the country.
Those evacuated include Afghans who assisted U.S. forces in the 20-year war who are Special Immigrant Visa applicants.
—Updated at 7:17 p.m.