State Department refuses to specify number of evacuees expected to flee Kabul by Aug 31 deadline
Biden: Greater threat is from ISIS, not Afghanistan
Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan discusses president’s remarks towards on Afghanistan crisis on ‘America Reports.’
State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Friday refused to pinpoint the number of Afghan evacuees expected to leave Kabul by the Aug. 31 deadline, when U.S. forces are scheduled to pull out.
“That overall number is going to depend on a few factors. First, it’s going to depend on the number of people who wish to be relocated,” Price told reporters. “We have made contact with many of these individuals. We have indicated that if they wish to relocate that we are offering to facilitate that for them, and in some cases, they should consider making their way to the airport compound.”
But when pressed again by reporters on the specific number of at-risk Afghans the State Department expects to try and evacuate the country, Price failed to give an approximate number.
“The broad point here is that we have dramatically increased capacity over recent days,” he said. “What it comes down to is we are going to do as much as we can for as long as we can for as many people as we can.”
President Biden this week said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that 50,000 to 65,000 at-risk Afghans are attempting to leave the country.
But estimates from Refugee International suggest at least 200,000 Afghans are looking to flee the recently collapsed state.
Price said the State Department is holding “ongoing” conversations with U.S. citizens, at-risk Afghans, third-country nationals, and “partners who have worked with us on the ground” to facilitate relocations.
But with just 11 days until Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, reporters questioned the State Department spokesperson on what happens if not all evacuees are able to flee the country in that time frame.
“The Taliban…have assured us that they will allow Afghans who wish to leave the country to do so after Aug. 31,” Price said. “They at least profess to agree with us that a functioning, secure, and operational airport is essential to the well-being of the Afghan people and the maintenance of the Afghan economy.”
“These are the words of the Taliban, we take them for what they are,” he later added.
Roughly 13,000 people have been evacuated on U.S. military aircraft since Aug. 14 — 5,700 of whom were evacuated in the last 24 hours.
The president said he was committed to evacuating all 10,000 to 15,000 Americans out of Afghanistan, even if that meant keeping U.S. military forces on the ground past Aug. 31.
But he did not commit to staying in the Taliban-dominated country for the remaining Afghan allies and their families looking to flee.
“The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone that should come out,” Biden said. “That’s the objective. That’s what we’re doing now, that’s the path we’re on. And I think we’ll get there.”
“If we don’t, we’ll determine at the time who’s left,” he added.
The Pentagon said earlier this week it hopes to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 people a day in order to meet its objective in getting all Americans and Afghan allies out of Kabul.
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