Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said all American citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan have made it out, contradicting numbers coming out of the U.S. State Department and accounts from organizations still evacuating U.S. citizens and allies from Kabul airport.
“The Americans, all of whom wanted to come out, have come out, praise God. But there are a lot of Afghans who risked their lives for our soldiers and others. Many got out, some didn’t,” Schumer said during an interview with a local ABC news station in New York on Sept. 3.
The Senate leader went on to say that not all Afghan allies have made it out and his office is in the process of helping many to get out of Afghanistan via land routes.
“And I’m still working on trying to get some of them out. A particularly poignant story. There’s an orchestra of young people, co-ed. The Taliban hates them. They hate music and they hate boys and girls performing. We tried to get them out. I spoke to General Milley about a number of different cases including that one. They got up to the gate and a Taliban checkpoint turned them back,” said Schumer.
“So now the hope is we can figure out a way. The State Department has worked out the borders that are going to be safe to cross for three or four countries, and maybe they can get out that way,” added Schumer.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday that President Joe Biden receives regular updates about the number of American citizens still in Afghanistan, citing State Department numbers of around 100.
“It’s just under that. I think the State Department has given numbers. As you may have seen out there reported over the weekend, there were four American citizens who were able to depart,” said Psaki referring to citizens who recently escaped Afghanistan.
When asked about the Americans who were blocked by the Taliban from leaving on flights recently, Psaki defended the administration’s effort, saying those with proper paperwork will be allowed to depart.
“So let me be very clear: We’re in touch with American citizens. We’re working to get them out. There are four who were able to depart overland. Our Secretary of State is in Qatar right now working, and what we have seen is that individuals who have documentation are able to depart, or that—that is what we have seen. But again, we don’t have a great deal of understanding of every individual,” Psaki added.
When U.S. troops withdrew on Aug. 30, between 100 and 200 Americans were left behind, breaking a promise that President Joe Biden made to get every American out who wanted to leave.
Approximately 100 Americans remain in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, and State Department officials are in direct contact “with virtually all of them.”
Biden administration officials have attempted to portray those who couldn’t get out before U.S. troops withdrew as dual nationals who were torn between leaving and staying, a narrative undercut by the dozens of U.S. primary school students who couldn’t escape before the withdrawal.
Some outside estimates have pegged the number of Americans stranded in Afghanistan as high as 500. Republicans have pressed the administration to provide the full number, but officials have declined because they say the figure is constantly fluctuating as more people leave and some who already left confirm their departures with the State Department.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.