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State Department Says It Has Contacted the Last Americans Left in Afghanistan

Alex Brandon | Pool | Reuters
  • The State Department says it is in contact with the roughly 1,000 U.S. citizens who are still in Afghanistan and that two-thirds of them are actively trying to leave the country.
  • Another 500 Americans have been evacuated in the past 24 hours, according to a State Department spokesperson who requested anonymity to discuss numbers that are still fluid.
  • Taken together, this group of 1,500 U.S. nationals represents the last group of the approximately 6,000 Americans that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said were believed to be in Afghanistan when the massive U.S. airlift began on Aug. 14.

WASHINGTON — The State Department said Thursday it is in contact with the roughly 1,000 U.S. citizens who are still in Afghanistan and that two-thirds of them are actively trying to leave the country.

Another 500 Americans have been evacuated in the past 24 hours, according to a State Department spokesperson who requested anonymity to discuss numbers that are still fluid.

Taken together, this group of 1,500 U.S. nationals represents the last of the approximately 6,000 Americans that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said were believed to be in Afghanistan when the massive U.S. airlift began on Aug. 14.

"The U.S. government does not track Americans' movements when they travel around the world," Blinken explained on Wednesday. "There could be other Americans in Afghanistan who never enrolled with the embassy, who ignored public evacuation notices and have not yet identified themselves."

"We've also found that many people who contact us and identify themselves as American citizens, including by filling out and submitting repatriation assistance forms, are not, in fact, U.S. citizens, something that can take some time to verify."

On Thursday, the State Department said that an additional roughly 500 people had reached out "purporting to be Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave," and that U.S. diplomats were trying to reach them.

But the official said the department is skeptical about some of these last-minute claims:

"Based on our experience, many of these will not turn out to be U.S. citizens in need of our assistance," said the official.

Of the roughly 660 U.S. citizens who have been contacted by the State Department in the last day or two and who are actively trying to leave Afghanistan, "many, if not most, of these individuals are nearly or already out of the country," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is also aware of "dozens more" American citizens "who do not wish to leave Afghanistan for a range of reasons."

The latest State Department figures underscore one of the most complex pieces of the U.S. withdrawal: hunting down every last American civilian in a country that lacks reliable internet and phone service.

U.S. humanitarian aid workers and Christian missionaries have been active in Afghanistan for the last 20 years, often working in remote communities far from the major cities.

It was unclear how, exactly, the State Department had tracked down these last remaining 1,000 people. Nor did officials say what would become of those citizens who were unable to make it out of the country before President Joe Biden's Aug. 31 deadline for military withdrawal.

Efforts to locate and extract individual U.S. citizens became even more dangerous on Thursday, when a suicide bomb attack killed 12 American service members and wounded 15 more outside the gates of the Kabul airport.

A splinter group of ISIS in Afghanistan, ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the attacks, which killed at least 60 Afghan civilians.

Biden is scheduled to speak at 5:00 p.m. Thursday to address the terrorist attacks and the ongoing evacuation effort.

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