The Biden administration is in touch with nearly 400 Americans who are stranded in Afghanistan, a figure that far exceeds the administration's claims that about 100 Americans were left in the nation following the United States' hurried exit from Kabul, according to a senior congressional source who was briefed Thursday by the State Department.
With Afghanistan in the administration's rear-view mirror, U.S. officials are providing exact figures on the number of Americans who are still stranded and want to leave—although they are doing so in private, off-the-record forums—according to two senior congressional aides, who relayed the contents of the non-public call to the Washington Free Beacon.
The United States is in touch with 363 Americans who are stuck in war-torn Afghanistan and around 176 U.S. permanent residents who are asking to be evacuated immediately, Biden administration officials said on the call with congressional staff, according to the source, who requested anonymity to discuss non-public information. These figures demonstrate that senior Biden administration officials routinely misrepresented the number of stranded Americans to the public and Congress for nearly two months.
The State Department further claims to have airlifted 218 U.S. citizens and 131 long-term permanent residents out of Afghanistan since Aug. 31, when senior Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House press secretary Jen Psaki, were publicly claiming that "around 100" Americans were still stuck in the nation. Psaki, for instance, said last month that only "a handful of American citizens" were trying to leave Afghanistan after the United States pulled its forces. The figures presented in Thursday’s briefing indicate the administration was citing the "around 100" talking point while privately being aware of nearly 600 Americans still inside Afghanistan.
The information presented in the call stunned participants and fueled accusations that the Biden administration lied about the dire situation in order to avoid public scrutiny of its rushed evacuation from Afghanistan that was widely seen as disastrous and ill-prepared.
"We now know this administration repeatedly lied to the world about the citizens of our country it abandoned in Afghanistan," Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), whose office has paved the way for several families to come home, told the Free Beacon. "But it did something even worse: It broke a sacred bond of trust between Americans and their government. This isn’t close to over."
While members of Congress often challenged the "around 100" figure, the administration stuck to the number and attempted to downplay criticism of its botched retreat.
"Everyone who has said these numbers make no sense got told we were lying, got told we were crazy, got told we were not on the ground," said a second senior congressional source working on the issue. "The White House has said on the record that they're turning the page and it becomes clearer all the time why: Every new detail that we find out about the reckless Biden policy in Afghanistan produces only more proof that they lied from day one."
The State Department did not provide congressional staff with information about how it is coordinating with outside groups to fly trapped Americans out of Afghanistan. Many charter flights have been prevented by the Taliban from leaving Afghanistan. The State Department said it "didn’t have good guidance there for how to get a flight in and out of the country." There were also "no clear answers" about how Americans board a private flight out of Kabul, where the Taliban controls who gets in and out of the city.
The United States has established a "technical channel" with the Taliban passport office to help stranded Americans get the paperwork needed to flee the country, according to the source who was on the call.
Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers, including Issa, were informed last week by American military officials that nearly 20 percent of the Afghan evacuees who were brought to the United States—around 12,000 in total—arrived with no paperwork, no identification, and no visa, as the Free Beacon first reported.
The Biden administration additionally blocked Issa and other lawmakers from accessing a U.S. holding facility located near Doha, Qatar, where Afghan evacuees are being held prior to being flown into America.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on the call or its contents.
Published under: Afghanistan Crisis , Biden Administration , Feature