How Many Americans Are Still in Afghanistan? U.S. Says It's Less Than 200, Biden 'Committed' to Getting Them

"Ninety percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave," President Joe Biden said Tuesday, noting that many of those who remain are dual citizens with "family roots" that were important

The U.S. military withdrawal
A U.S. Air Force aircraft takes off from the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. Photo: AAMIR QURESHI/getty

Even as the U.S. finalized its withdrawal from the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday night, ending the country's longest war, a question remained about those still in the country, including any American citizens who weren't aboard the final flights out.

On Monday afternoon, Gen. Frank McKenzie announced the completion of the withdrawal, hedging the news by adding that the mission to get additional Americans and eligible vulnerable Afghans out of the country remains ongoing.

"While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues," McKenzie said.

Pentagon officials said that 6,000 Americans had been evacuated since July in a historically large airlift operation that — while it drew fierce criticism — helped 122,000 people leave the country.

Later on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken estimated there were around 100 Americans, less than 200, who were still in Afghanistan after the weeks-long evacuation "and want to leave." But the administration didn't know the exact number.

"We're trying to determine exactly how many" people that is, Blinken said.

Despite efforts by the Pentagon, no American citizens were aboard the last five jets to leave Kabul, McKenzie said Monday.

"We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out," he said. "That activity ended probably about 12 hours before our exit [late Monday], although we continue the outreach and would have been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute. But none of them made it to the airport and were able to be accommodated."

Joe Biden
Joe Biden. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty

In remarks from the White House on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said that most of the estimated 100 to 200 Americans who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave are dual citizens — "longtime residents that earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan," he said.

"Bottom line: Ninety percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. For those remaining Americans, there is no deadline," he said. "We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out."

Since March, well before the military withdrew, the president said the administration has reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan with warnings and offers to evacuate them from the country.

Still, some of those who remain in the country have shared startling stories of their worries about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

One woman, who spoke out under a pseudonym, talked to CNN's Chris Cuomo after the withdrawal.

"It's heartbreaking to see that, with all this, what's going on, no one heard us, that we are in danger and we need to be safe. It is heartbreaking. I just don't even know what to say to you," she said.

McKenzie said in his own briefing on Monday that the military operation has now entered what he called a "diplomatic sequel" phase, in which the Department of State will work to get out both remaining Americans and any remaining eligible Afghans (such as interpreters who previously worked with the U.S. military).

America has been in discussions with the Taliban, who has said its government is in a transitional phase after it swept across the country this summer while the military withdrew.

"I believe our Department of State is going to work very hard to allow any American citizens that are left — and we think the citizens that were not brought out number in the low -- very low hundreds," McKenzie said Monday. "I believe that we're going to — we're going to be able to get those people out, and I think we're also going to negotiate very hard and very aggressively to get our other Afghan partners out."

As uncertainty regarding those still in Afghanistan lingers, nearly 100 nations including the U.S. issued a joint statement on Sunday, noting that the Taliban had pledged to accommodate citizens of other countries who wish to travel outside Afghanistan in the future.

"We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country," the statement read. "We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries. We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding."

A spokesperson for the State Department told CNBC last week the U.S. was also aware of "dozens" of American citizens "who do not wish to leave Afghanistan for a range of reasons."

The department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment or further clarification about who remains in the country.

As Mckenzie detailed on Monday, the U.S. military has evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport since Aug. 14, just before the national government fell apart.

"That includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third-country nationals and Afghan civilians," McKenzie aid. "This last category includes special immigrant visas, consular staff, at-risk Afghans and their families."

The deadline for U.S. withdrawal (which was struck in a deal between the Trump administration and the Taliban last year) passed as of Tuesday, but the number of Afghans who were eligible to leave but remain in Afghanistan remains unclear.

As Secretary of State Blinken said Monday, the timetable to remove them is much more open-ended.

"Our commitment to them has no deadline," he said.

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