Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday acknowledged that Americans were stranded in Afghanistan despite earlier comments to the contrary made by White House officials. He said it’s not clear how many remain.
“Right now I think the tools we have available to us and that we’re going to use as a U.S. government is going to be more in the diplomatic, economic lanes, and we don’t really see a military role right now,” Kirby told MSNBC on Tuesday morning when asked if the U.S. military would play a role in rescuing those individuals.
When asked about whether the State Department could help evacuate Americans from the country amid Taliban terrorist rule, Kirby said that it will be similar to how the United States extracts its citizens from other countries.
“It’s not completely unlike the way we do it elsewhere around the world. We have Americans that get stranded in countries all the time and we do everything we can to try to facilitate safe passage,” Kirby said, which appeared to contradict comments made by White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Aug. 23 when she said it is wrong to refer to Americans stuck in Afghanistan as being stranded there.
During an exchange with a reporter last week, Psaki said, “I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not. We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home.” Meanwhile, President Joe Biden, during an ABC News earlier this month, vowed that the United States would evacuate every American who wanted to leave the country.
Also in the interview, Kirby said that the United States has “leverage” over the Taliban to “hold them to account,” adding “it’s going to be a whole-of-government effort, but I don’t see a military role at this time.”
Some Americans who remain in Afghanistan said they attempted to evacuate but weren’t successful.
“The last flight is gone and we’re left behind,” a U.S. citizen using a moniker said on Monday during a CNN interview.
Abound 6,000 U.S. citizens were flown out between Aug. 14 and Aug. 31, but “under 200, and likely close to 100,” are still in the country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday.
“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,” he said. “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 wanted to leave.”
The remarks come as the final U.S. military flight out of Kabul was carried out on Monday, effectively leaving most of the country under Taliban control.