The White House said it thinks a “small number” of Americans remain in Afghanistan and want to leave, but it was unable to provide a concrete figure as a Tuesday deadline nears to leave the Taliban-ruled country.
“We’re trying to determine exactly how many,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “We’re going through manifests and calling and texting through our lists, and will have more of a concrete number for you as soon as possible.”
Ms. Psaki said some eligible evacuees are dual citizens who have family in Afghanistan and are trying to figure out whether they want to leave.
Mr. Biden has pledged to retrieve all Americans who want to get out, though the deadline and the lack of safe passage to the airport are raising fears that some will be left behind.
“We remain in touch with American citizens,” Ms. Psaki said. “Our commitment is enduring and our commitment does not waver, even as we bring our men and women from the military home.”
She said the administration will provide more details in the coming days on efforts to handle diplomatic processes in Afghanistan after the troops pull out.
“The difficulty of getting to a number is that there may be people who haven’t even applied yet, so we can’t count those people. If they’re eligible and they want to depart, we’ll work with them,” Ms. Psaki said.
Ms. Psaki also said the White House is engaged in “urgent” and “high-level” talks with foreign allies looking to pull their own people out.
As of early Monday, the U.S. had evacuated over 122,000 people from Afghanistan, including Americans and Afghans who aided U.S. forces.
The U.S. military is evacuating people under the threat of terrorism while dealing with a hostile Taliban government that is calling the shots in Kabul.
Mr. Biden participated in the dignified transfer of the remains of 13 service members who died in a terror attack in Kabul on Thursday.
“He was grateful to be there with the families yesterday and to honor both the heroic service and the incredible sacrifice of their sons and daughters,” Ms. Psaki said.
She said the president will remain in touch with the families and look for more ways to honor their memory.