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Around 1,500 American citizens remain in Afghanistan ahead of a rapidly approaching Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. to withdraw troops from the country, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.
In a briefing with reporters, Blinken said 4,500 Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan in the past 10 days and "we've been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely." He said officials have had a difficult time tracking down the other estimated 1,000 American citizens who might still be in the country.
"We're aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication — phone, email, text messaging — to determine whether they still want to leave," Blinken said, adding that some may have already left the country without notifying the government.
Blinken noted some may have decided to stay. "Many of them are dual nationals and may consider Afghanistan their home, who lived there for decades or who want to stay close to extended family," Blinken said.
He also said some of the 1,000 "may have claimed to be Americans but turned out not to be."
"We'll continue to try to identify the status and plans of these people in the coming days," he said, but "from this list of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower."
The U.S. Embassy warned Americans to avoid traveling to the airport without individual instructions from a U.S. government representative, citing security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport early Thursday.
It urged citizens at three specific gates to "leave immediately."
A State Department spokesperson called it a dynamic and volatile security situation on the ground.
President Joe Biden has been under significant pressure both at home and abroad to extend the deadline to pull troops from Afghanistan in the wake of a rapid Taliban takeover, but he has repeatedly declined to push it back.
On Thursday, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of House moderates, called on the administration to extend the timeline for withdrawal.
"From this week's bipartisan member briefing, it is apparent that the administration's set date for departure from Afghanistan on August 31st does not provide enough time to evacuate all American citizens and our partners," the group said in a statement. "We respectfully call on the administration to reconsider its timeline and provide a clear plan to Congress that will result in the completion of our shared national objectives."
Pentagon officials said earlier Wednesday that they had evacuated 19,000 people from Afghanistan in the past 24 hours and over 80,000 since the operation began earlier this month.
While the U.S. is aiming to get people out of the country by the Aug. 31 withdrawal date, Blinken said there is "no deadline" on helping Americans and Afghan allies to depart.