WASHINGTON — The United States has the capacity to evacuate the approximately 300 US citizens remaining in Afghanistan who want to leave before President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline, senior Biden administration officials say, as another US drone strike against suspected Islamic State militants underscored the grave threat in the war’s final days.
“This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission these last couple of days,” America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, says, not long before confirmation of that airstrike in Kabul, the capital.
The evacuation flow of Americans keeps pace even as a new State Department security alert, issued hours before the military action, instructs people to leave the airport area immediately “due to a specific, credible threat.”
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, says that for those US citizens seeking to leave Afghanistan immediately, by the looming deadline, “We have the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number we think are remaining, come to the airport and get on planes in the time that is remaining. We moved out more than that number just yesterday. So from our point of view, there is an opportunity right now for American citizens to come, to be admitted to the airport, and to be evacuated safely and effectively.”
Sullivan says the US does not currently plan to have an ongoing embassy presence after the final US troop withdrawal. But he pledges that the US “will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident” after Tuesday, as well as for “those Afghans who helped us.” But untold numbers of vulnerable Afghans, fearful of a return to the brutality of pre-2001 Taliban rule, are likely to be left behind.