Several thousand Americans have been flown from Afghanistan on U.S. military and charter flights since the Taliban took over the country in mid-August, the U.S. military stated on Aug. 23.
“Since the 14th, we believe we have been able to evacuate several thousand Americans,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.
The U.S. military, on its own flights or through chartered planes, has evacuated approximately 37,000 people overall since that date.
That means approximately 5–10 percent of those flown out of the country by the military have been Americans.
Pressed for a more specific number, Kirby described himself as “reticent to get too much more specific than that.”
That prompted a reporter to ask if he was being “deliberately vague.”
“I think I’m just going to leave it at several thousand right now, because I think the number is very fluid and it literally changes nearly by the hour,” he said.
Most of those being evacuated by U.S. flights are Afghan nationals, who are receiving special immigrant visas or P-2 visas for assisting U.S. troops during the decades-long war in their home country or because they may be persecuted by the Taliban if they remain there.
After staying flat for days, the pace of evacuations jumped in 24 hours, with 25 U.S. military flights departing along with 61 charter commercial and other military flights.
Some 16,000 passengers were able to leave Afghanistan.
The number of Americans on those flights wasn’t given.
It still isn’t clear how many Americans remain in the Taliban-held country, which the United States plans to leave by the end of Aug. 31.
President Joe Biden last week pegged the number as high as 15,000, though the State Department and the Pentagon have typically estimated between 5,000 and 10,000.
At the White House, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan isn’t certain because some never registered with the U.S. Embassy upon arriving in the country while others didn’t deregister when they left.
“In the days remaining, we believe we have the wherewithal to get out the American citizens who want to leave Kabul,” he said.
The Pentagon for the first time on Aug. 17 specified how many Americans had been flown from Kabul, putting the number at 165 in the previous 24 hours. The White House that night said 1,100 had been evacuated.
Another nearly 300 were evacuated on planes that left over the past 24 hours, Kirby said on Aug. 19. And another couple hundred were evacuated the following day, he said later.
Major Gen. Hank Taylor, director of the Joint Staff For Regional Operations, told reporters on Aug. 21 that approximately 2,500 Americans had been evacuated.
Biden has vowed to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until every American in the country who wants to leave is evacuated.