Republican Congress members are disputing the numbers the Biden administration is quoting of Americans left behind in Afghanistan after the last U.S. troops left the country on Monday, citing the calls their offices are getting from citizens stranded in a country now under Taliban rule.
President Joe Biden said in an address Tuesday: “Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave. Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan,” adding, “The bottom line: [Ninety-eight] percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave.”
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), a Green Beret, told Fox News on Tuesday: “I think we’re all somewhere on the spectrum between rage and grief at any one given moment, but just this morning, literally just a few hours ago, we were in touch with American citizens and their children that were denied access to Kabul International.”
Republicans have been urging the Biden administration to continue rescue efforts in Afghanistan as their offices receive calls from those still stranded in Afghanistan.
At least 24 students from Southern California are stuck in Afghanistan, officials said this week. The students, as well as some parents, are stranded in the Central Asian country after going there for a summer trip, a spokesman for the Cajon Valley Union School District confirmed via email to The Epoch Times.
The group was visiting relatives in Afghanistan when they found themselves stranded after the Taliban took over the country in mid-August.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Wednesday said his office is helping get people out of Afghanistan. “Nasria, a pregnant American citizen, has braved beatings and harassment by the Taliban trying to get past their checkpoints to return to the US. This is one of the individuals we continue to help. All should know the Americans left behind in Afghanistan by President Biden.”
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Toria Nuland told reporters at a Sept. 1 press briefing that the United States is committed to getting Americans out by air and by land.
“As I said, we are working on trying to get that—supporting those partners on the ground who are trying to get that airport open. And we are also looking at land routes. I think on land routes, I don’t want to be any more specific because, as you know, it is a long journey with lots of dangers and we don’t want to further endanger folks who might be involved in that,” said Nuland.
Since the U.S. military’s total exit from Afghanistan on Aug. 31, private groups and former military personnel have stepped up to raise funds and get citizens and allies out. They estimate the U.S. citizens still there to be in the thousands, not hundreds.
Glenn Beck, one of the founders of The Blaze news network and of the Nazarene Fund, told Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report on Friday he believes the number of U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan to be a few thousand, given the original number Biden quoted of 16,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan. Beck has been leading the Nazarene Fund to charter planes to get citizens and allies out of Afghanistan.
Beck has been in the Middle East helping to coordinate the evacuation of U.S. citizens and allies via the Nazarene Fund since mid-August. “Let’s just put it this way. I don’t think anybody knows the American number, but it’s not 300 or 200. It’s not anywhere close to that,” said Beck.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said his office is also getting calls from American citizens still inside Afghanistan. “@SecBlinken and @StateDeptSpox: I am in contact right now with US citizens in Afghanistan who tried to leave but couldn’t. Now they have what they need to leave except clearance from State. DM me please,” Crenshaw wrote on Twitter the day the U.S. military left Afghanistan.
The State Department has also said they can only estimate the numbers of citizens, claiming that, of the about 200, some do not want to leave.
“We’re trying to determine exactly how many. We’re going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists, and we will have more details to share as soon as possible. Part of the challenge with fixing a precise number is that there are longtime residents of Afghanistan who have American passports and who are trying to determine whether or not they want to leave. Many are dual citizen Americans with deep roots and extended families in Afghanistan who resided there for many years. For many, it’s a painful choice,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, told MSNBC on Aug. 31 that the Biden administration had to pull troops out when they did because of the terrorist threats.
“I mean there was a very credible, very specific, increasing threat stream by ISIS that was making the entire operation more perilous, and we had to make some decisions in the last couple of days to make sure that we could get everybody out as safely as possible and not imperil civilians any more than they already were.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.