Hundreds of American citizens are still in Afghanistan, despite President Joe Biden’s pledge not to withdraw United States forces before they were able to leave, according to the testimony of top Pentagon civilian and military officials at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview in mid-August when there were thousands of U.S. forces in Kabul.
However, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl testified that the State Department is in contact with 196 Americans in Afghanistan who are “ready to depart,” and with another 243 Americans who are not ready to depart — a total of at least 439 Americans in Afghanistan.
Kahl also testified that in addition to those Americans left in Afghanistan, the U.S. government has facilitated the departure of 234 Americans and 144 lawful permanent residents since the Biden administration withdrew all U.S. troops on August 31, and that “others have come out on private charter.”
Kahl denied that the Biden administration had abandoned any Americans in Afghanistan.
“We did not leave Americans behind. They continue to get out,” Kahl told Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), after she said, “We left Americans behind.”
Gen. Mingus: Yes ma'am, the last airplane left the evening of the 30th, the morning of 31st.
Ernst: Thank you for your straight-forward answer. pic.twitter.com/7YaWHGXcMu
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 26, 2021
Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said the Biden administration keeps changing its number of how many Americans are left in Afghanistan.
“We really don’t know how many Americans were left in Afghanistan,” he said. “The administration always said 100-200 American citizens left in Afghanistan… . There are still thousands of Americans unaccounted for, based on Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken’s earlier claim that there were 10- to 15,000 mid-August.”