Estimated 450 Americans and thousands of SIV applicants remain in Afghanistan: Defense official
The number of Americans and Special Immigrant Visa applicants still in Afghanistan is higher than previously released information indicated, according to one Defense Department official.
While Biden administration officials have said that the number of Americans in Afghanistan following the military's withdrawal was between 100 and 200 , Colin H. Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the number is closer to 450.
He said the State Department is "in contact with 196 American citizens who are ready to depart, and arrangements are being made for them to do so either via air or over ground. And another 243 American citizens have been contacted and are not ready to depart — either because they want to stay in Afghanistan or aren't ready."
Kahl later explained that there are roughly 28,000 SIV applications, which are granted to foreign allies who worked alongside U.S. forces, "in the pipeline," though he noted that less than a third of the applicants have gotten out of Afghanistan with their families.
"The total number of SIVs in the pipeline is 28,000, according to our records, of which 8,555 have come out with their family members," he added. "So that would suggest there's a significant number of SIVs still in Afghanistan."
A spokesperson for the National Security Council pointed the Washington Examiner to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Aug. 30 remarks to explain why the number of Americans who want to leave fluctuates.
“ Part of the challenge with fixing a precise number is that there are longtime residents of Afghanistan who have American passports and who are trying to determine whether or not they wanted to leave,” Blinken said. “Many are dual citizen Americans with deep roots and extended families in Afghanistan who resided there for many years. For many, it’s a painful choice. Our commitment to them and to all Americans in Afghanistan and everywhere in the world continues.”
Some evacuees may be working through the application process after getting evacuated from Afghanistan.
The undersecretary also told the committee that the U.S. government has "directly facilitated" the departure of 240 U.S. citizens and 157 lawful permanent residents, which on its own eclipses the previous number given out by Biden administration officials after the Aug. 31 withdrawal .
Kahl repeatedly insisted that the United States did not leave people behind in Afghanistan, a frequent line of criticism from GOP members of the committee.
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