About 100 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are ready to leave Kabul, Afghanistan, the State Department announced on Monday.
A senior State Department official said that number is not precise because it changes every day, but that’s the pool on which the Biden administration is focusing its evacuation efforts.
“The highest priority remains helping the U.S. citizens who wish to leave the country now to do so,” the official said.
The official did not specify when the group will depart Kabul.
After they leave, the administration will continue to support the departure of any other Americans in Afghanistan “whether they’re people who have just come to our attention, whether they are people we have been talking to and in touch with on a periodic basis who change their mind,” the official said.
“We’re also going to continue working closely with other governments and with a range of outside advocates to support Afghans wanting to leave the country,” the official added.
The State Department is continuing to encourage the Taliban to reopen the Kabul airport to commercial traffic and to allow safe passage out of Afghanistan for U.S. citizens, legal residents and at-risk Afghans.
“Many people continue to work this problem all day, every day, in pretty much every time zone,” the official said, adding that the administration is also constantly touching base with U.S. citizens who they think are still in Afghanistan “to see if they’re ready to leave.”
“In all of our interactions and communications with the Taliban, whether its directly or indirectly, we continue to stress one of our top priorities … is freedom of movement and safe passage for our citizens, our legal residents, and for a range of Afghans,” the official said.
At least 85 U.S. citizens and 79 lawful permanent residents have departed Afghanistan with U.S. assistance since the U.S. wrapped up its withdrawal efforts on Aug. 31, according to the State Department.
“The reason I say at least is because an additional number of American citizens and legal permanent residents have departed Afghanistan in the last month on private charters,” the official said, adding that because those charters go to third countries and don’t get direct support from U.S. personnel, State Department officials aren't sure how many people that includes.
The U.S. government paused flights of Afghan refugees earlier this month after four people were diagnosed with measles when they arrived in the U.S.
The senior State Department official on Monday said the measles outbreak is “a huge challenge” and the U.S. government is working to ensure the original outbreak doesn’t turn into a larger health risk.
The government has undertaken a mass vaccination campaign for anyone who doesn’t have the measles vaccine at sites in the U.S. and other transit locations overseas.
But, the vaccination campaign has impacted operations because there is a 21-day waiting period between when a person receives the shot and when they reach full immunity, the official said.