The White House said Thursday that there continue to be “active” threats from ISIS-K in Afghanistan, and that officials are in “close touch” with the roughly 100 American citizens remaining in the country following the U.S. military withdrawal.
During a press briefing Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said that the number of Americans still in Afghanistan following the full U.S. troop withdrawal on Monday is “closer to 100.”
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“We are in close touch with the State Department, our diplomatic officials, with all of these individuals and are working in close coordination to discuss how they can leave the country, and if they can leave the country,” Psaki said.
Psaki, touching on reports of potential charter flights to aid those Americans, said that the United States does not have personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, and confirmed that the U.S. “does not control air space.”
“There are active, continue to be active, ISIS-K threats,” Psaki said, adding that there is “concern” about these potential charter flights and “where these flights go,” as ISIS has a “keen interest” in aviation targets.
President Biden acknowledged this week that there are Americans who have been left behind, but claimed that his administration has been warning those individuals “as far back as March.”
“After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis and identified around 5,000 Americans who had decided earlier to stay in Afghanistan but now wanted to leave,” Biden explained, saying the mission was able to evacuate 5,500 Americans out of Afghanistan.
“We believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave,” Biden said. “Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents, but earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.”
He added: “The bottom line, 90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave, and for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”
The president said that the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that “sent a clear message” about the international community’s expectations for the Taliban to “deliver on moving forward—notably freedom of travel, freedom to leave.”
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“We are joined by over 100 countries that are determined to make sure the Taliban uphold those commitments,” Biden said, adding that would “include ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport, as well as overland routes, allowing for continued departure to those who want to leave and deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.”
“The Taliban has made public commitments broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans,” Biden said. “We don’t take them by their word alone. But by their actions. And we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met.”
The White House, earlier this week, said that around 124,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan, prior to the full withdrawal of U.S. military assets Monday evening.
The Biden administration has said the mission to evacuate remaining American citizens and Afghan allies from Taliban Afghanistan has shifted from a military to a “diplomatic mission.”
Meanwhile, Psaki, on Thursday, said the administration is looking to help individuals who want to leave Afghanistan, noting that some may be eligible for a range of U.S. programs, like Special Immigrant Visas, P1, P2, and others.
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“Everybody who wants to leave Afghanistan and come to the United States will not able to and will not be eligible to,” Psaki explained, while noting, however that the administration is assessing, and doing “extensive outreach through diplomatic channels to see how many people there are and what programs they’ll be eligible for.”
And as for the ISIS-K threat, top Pentagon official Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said Wednesday said it is “possible” the U.S. will work with the Taliban to address that threat.