Nearly 200 Americans want to leave Afghanistan, State Department tells Congress

Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds up documents as he testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 14, 2021. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan
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The Biden administration told Congress that more than 300 U.S. citizens are still in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave.

In a Thursday briefing, the State Department told congressional staff that it is in touch with 363 American citizens, a call first reported by CNN.

The new numbers reveal more Americans want to get out of Afghanistan than the administration publicly estimated as U.S. forces were withdrawing from the country.

On Aug. 30, a day before the U.S. military ended its mission in the country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said only “a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100,” remained in Afghanistan and wanted to leave. 

Days later on Sept. 5, White House chief of staff Ron Klain estimated that around 100 Americans were still waiting to be evacuated

The U.S. government has helped about 234 Americans evacuate since the end of August, but it is not known exactly how many were in the country as U.S. troops left or how many remain. It is difficult to track such a figure as private citizens do not need to declare they are traveling there.

Blinken also said in August that longtime residents of Afghanistan who have American passports were “trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave.” 

Many such passport holders may later decide to evacuate from the country.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on Friday accused the administration of misleading the American public in revealing the new figure.

“For weeks, their official number was ‘about a hundred’ and it magically never changed – as Americans slowly got out the total number never went down. Now they say more than 300 Americans are still in Afghanistan,” Sasse said in a statement. 

Tens of thousands more vulnerable Afghans, including those who aided U.S. forces and contractors in the past 20 years of conflict, also hope to leave the country.  

Tags Antony Blinken Ben Sasse Ron Klain

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