Blinken: 100 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan want to leave

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified on Monday before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and said about 100 U.S. citizens are still in the country who wish to leave.

Video transcript

ANTONY BLINKEN: As of the end of last week, we had about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who had told us that they wish to leave the country. And I want to emphasize that this is a snapshot in time. It's more accurately a moving picture. As you know, stepping back for a minute, to know precisely at any given moment in time exactly how many American citizens are in any country is something we can't and don't know. Americans are not required to register when they go to a foreign country or if they reside there.

And so, from the start of this effort, we've been engaged in an intense effort to identify every American citizen that we could in Afghanistan, to be in touch with them, in contact with them, and to work with them if they wanted to leave. We've also benefited greatly from information provided by Congress to help us fill out this picture. But as of last week, there were about 100 who we were in contact with who continue to express an interest to leave. We offered seats on the planes that got out last week to about 60. 30 came forward and used those seats.

What happens at any given moment is that people are making decisions hour by hour, if not day by day, about whether to leave or not. And as I said earlier, these are incredibly wrenching decisions, because for the most part, this is a community of people who have been living, residing in Afghanistan for all their lives. Afghanistan is their home. They have extended families, and it's very, very hard for them, understandably, to make that decision. But that is the group that we're working with.

Now, what also happens is, people will identify themselves, including since the end of the evacuation, as American citizens in Afghanistan who wish to leave. So they get added to the picture. We get information from you, from NGOs, from other groups, veterans groups, about people purporting to be Americans in Afghanistan. We immediately seek to contact them, to engage with them, to find out if, in fact, they're in Afghanistan and if, in fact, they want to leave. So this is a picture that will continue to change over time. But that is the rough population that we're working with right now.

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