Blinken: We've exfiltrated "about 340" Americans from Afghanistan

If this sounds like progress, think again.  Just ten days ago, the State Department finally offered some specific numbers for the Americans that Joe Biden abandoned in Afghanistan, even if they only offered it quietly to Congress. Also for the first time, State distinguished between citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs), to come up with an overall number of 349:

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Keep this in mind when watching Antony Blinken tell Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union that the State Department has exfiltrated “about 340” Americans, which is three times the number of citizens that State initially acknowledged abandoning. Blinken has an answer for that, too:

BASH: I also want to ask about Afghanistan. I want you to listen — our viewers to listen to what you said two months ago about American’s still in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLINKEN: We believe there are still a small number of Americans, under 200, and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So, we now believe that there are still close to 200 Americans trying to get out of Afghanistan, even after you evacuated more than 200 already. So, is it acceptable to you that so many Americans are still, two months later, trying to get out of Afghanistan?

BLINKEN: Dana, let’s be very clear about this, because I think there’s a tremendous amount of confusion about this issue that’s built up in recent months. And give me just one second, and I will try and explain it. First, going back to March of this year, well before the president made his decision, well before Afghanistan imploded, the government and the military imploded, we started sending messages to those who had American passports in Afghanistan, 19 between March and July, urging them to leave the country.

By the time that the government did implode in August, there was still about 6,000 left. And there’s a good reason for that. These are people whose entire lives were in Afghanistan. Their families were there. Their extended families were there. They — that’s what they knew. And so it’s an incredibly wrenching decision to leave. So, about 6,000 left at that point. During the evacuation, the extraordinary evacuation, in which we got about 125,000 people out of Afghanistan, we got virtually all of the 6,000 who remained out. There were still several hundred who had told us they — at that point that they wanted to get out who were not able to get out by the 31st.

And what we said was, we — there’s no deadline to this effort. We will continue to get them out. Since August 31, as of today, we have gotten out, of the Americans left who said that they wanted to leave, about 340.

But what’s happened since is this. More people have come forward in two ways. There were some small number of Americans in Afghanistan who didn’t want to leave who’ve now seen that we’ve successfully been able to get some of the few remaining Americans out who’ve now come forward and said, we do want to leave. And there are a couple of hundred of those who are ready to leave. And we will work to get them out. Similarly, since August 31, other people have come forward who had not previously identified themselves as having an American passport. They’ve now come forward to say that they do. We verified that. And if they say they want to come out, we will bring them out as well. But we’ve demonstrated exactly what we said in August, which is, even as we work to get as many people out as we could before we left the airport…

BASH: Right.

BLINKEN: … we were convinced that we would be able to continue to do that. And we’ve done that.

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First off, what does Blinken mean by “we”? Families of those abandoned Americans have complained for weeks that the State Department has done little to provide any exfiltration at all. Many of those who have managed to get out of Afghanistan have either done so on their own or with the help of private organizations. The “we” here is doing some heavy lifting, in other words.

Next, Blinken seems to dance around the definition of “Americans.” When discussing how many Americans got left behind, Blinken and the State Department have used a much narrower count of citizens as opposed to including LPRs. When providing numbers for those still stuck in the country, they’ve exclusively counted citizens. Here, however, Blinken not only wants credit for the citizens (no matter how they got out of Afghanistan) but also the LPRs that State has tried to ignore all along.

The fact that the number has remained static for the last fortnight is also worrisome. If State has such a well-oiled machine as Blinken suggests, why have they not gotten any more Americans out in the intervening time? That certainly suggests that they’re relying heavily on private efforts while taking credit for their work. And let’s not forget that we still don’t have any count of abandoned LPRs, even those who have identified themselves to State for exfiltration — likely because those numbers are in the thousands, and that would embarrass Joe Biden. It’s an utter disgrace.

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David Strom 6:40 PM | April 18, 2024
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