The US is under pressure to get all Americans and Afghans with links to the States out of Afghanistan in a matter of days – but it won’t say how many it’s already evacuated.
This number is particularly crucial at the moment as the White House is preparing to wind down evacuations so the military can complete its final withdrawal from the country by Tuesday August 31.
When pushed on how many Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan, the press secretary for the Pentagon, John Kirby, explained: “I think we’re just going to leave it at several thousand right now, and I understand that’s not a satisfying answer to you.
“I would tell you that the number literally changes almost by the hour.”
He added that this was “as far as I am going to be drawn today”.
Kirby also refused to answer questions on whether it would be possible to evacuate all the US citizens in Afghanistan. He would not even suggest a percentage of the Americans that have been removed.
Kirby explained: “I don’t think there’s a perfect number that we know with certainty of all Americans in Afghanistan.”
He added: “You can’t force an American when they go to a foreign country to tell you that they’re there.”
He said this is why it’s difficult to know how many there are. Kirby could not even say if more of less than half of the Americans registered in Afghanistan have been evacuated.
He said: “The state department is working very hard to contact them, and we are getting them out every day and that’s not going to change.”
The Pentagon later said 4,000 American citizens and their families have been evacuated from Afghanistan, and that it expects this number to increase.
The White House said it had helped get approximately 70,000 people out of the country in total since August 14.
Thousands more are awaiting evacuation.
US president Joe Biden has agreed that he plans to remove all forces by August 31, but added that he has left room “to adjust the timeline should that become necessary”.
The Taliban have warned that this date is a “red line”, and that Biden will face “consequences” if he delays the final withdrawal of the military.
More than 5,000 US troops are helping with evacuations on the ground in Kabul, along with nearly 200 aircrafts.
Evacuees are currently flying from Kabul to temporary locations across the Middle East and Europe where there are US bases.
These evacuees are being held in Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy, Spain and Germany for now. Afghan nationals who have already arrived in the US at based in Wisconsin, Virginia, New Jersey or Texas.