AFGHANISTAN | EVACUATION

How many Americans were left behind in Afghanistan? Why?

The US has evacuated over 123,000 people since mid-July. For those left behind, the Taliban has pledged to allow those that remain to leave Afghanistan.

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How many Americans were left behind in Afghanistan? Why?
AAMIR QURESHI AFP

A minute before midnight local time on Monday in Kabul, the last US Air Force plane took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport, ending the US’ nearly 20-year involvement in Afghanistan. The US had evacuated around 114,000 people from the country in the past two weeks but was under a strict deadline to leave the country by 31 August.

General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, announced the end of the evacuation effort and America’s longest war in Washington saying “We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US will continue to try to get Americans and Afghans out of the country but that will now have to be through diplomatic methods.

How many Americans are still in Afghanistan?

The US has managed to evacuate 6,000 American citizens but a small number were left behind. The exact number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan isn’t know for sure. Speaking at press conference just hours after the last US flight left Kabul, Secretary Blinken said “we’re trying to determine exactly how many, we’re going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists.”

It’s estimated that there are less than 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan and it’s “likely closer to 100,” according to Secretary Blinken. He said that they face a “painful choice” and many are dual citizens “with deep roots and extended family” in the country. The State Department will be “trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave.”

Tens of thousands of Afghans are awaiting evacuation

Despite the massive airlift operation to evacuate and relocate Afghans who wanted to leave the country, many who are at particular risk of reprisal were left behind. These include Afghans who worked alongside the US Armed Forces, with contractors and NGOs. As well as civilian journalists and women’s right advocates, along with people who formed part of the American-backed government.

“Our commitment to them has no deadline”

General McKenzie had a message for those who the US was unable to ferry to safety, “Simply because we have left, that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and Afghans who want to leave, they will not be denied that opportunity,” he said. However, that will no longer be in the hands of the military to provide, it will instead be up to the US State Department.

Remarking on the evacuation of Afghanistan Secretary Blinken said “We will keep working to help them. Our commitment to them has no deadline.” He said that the US will hold the Taliban to their pledge to allow people to freely depart Afghanistan. He quoted a senior Taliban official who proclaimed on Friday “Any Afghans may leave the country, including those who work for Americans, if they want and for whatever reason there may be.”

Secretary Blinken said even if an American in Afghanistan says that they want to stay now but changes their mind down the road, whenever that may be, “we will help them leave.” Adding “The protection and welfare of Americans abroad remains the State Department’s most vital and enduring mission.”