The White House has little confidence it can evacuate all U.S. nationals from Afghanistan before the Taliban take full control of the country.
The administration said as much this week, although not in so many words. The vague, noncommittal language used this week by White House officials, coupled with detailed reports claiming the administration failed to put together an evacuation plan for American citizens prior to withdrawing, signals that not even the people in charge of the U.S.’s slipshod, frantic retreat from Afghanistan believe all U.S. citizens will make it home.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan, for example, was asked a straightforward question this week about whether the U.S. military will hang back to ensure the safe passage of American and Afghan allies currently trapped in Afghanistan.
“If the mission is not complete by Aug. 31,” a reporter asked at a White House press briefing, “and there are American and Afghan allies who remain there, will U.S. troops stay until everyone is out, or will they leave?”
“I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals,” Sullivan responded. “What I’m going to do is stay focused on the task at hand, which is getting as many people out, as rapidly as possible, and we will.”
The reporter persisted, asking, “So, you can’t commit to bringing back every American?”
“We are working with a variety of different types of groups,” Sullivan said, declining a second time to provide a clear answer.
There are anywhere between 5,000 and 40,000 Americans still in Afghanistan, according to former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Charles, who served under President George W. Bush. Meanwhile, the Taliban have conquered most of the country in just a few days, including the capital city of Kabul, declaring the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
The Biden White House’s own estimate of the number of U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan has increased dramatically, almost by the hour. Administration officials claimed first there were roughly 5,000 Americans still in the country. They then claimed there were as many as 10,000. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later there may be 11,000.
Speaking of Psaki, she was also asked the same question as Sullivan at the same press briefing. Like Sullivan, she avoided giving a straightforward answer.
“Can you offer any guarantee to the Americans and Afghan allies that if they remain there past the end of the month,” asked a reporter, “U.S. troops will help them evacuate past the end of the month?”
“Our focus right now is undoing the work at hand and on the task at hand,” she said. “And that is day by day, getting as many American citizens, as many SIV applicants, as many members of a vulnerable population who are eligible to be evacuated to the airport and out on planes. … So, that is where we will keep our efforts.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was asked elsewhere this week whether the administration is “confident” the Americans in Afghanistan are “essentially free of Taliban control.”
“I can only tell you what we know and that there hasn’t been any hostile interactions by the Taliban to our people or to our operations,” he said.
Conspicuously absent from these responses is a simple “Yes, we will leave no man behind.” The hemming and hawing suggest they suspect the situation in Afghanistan will end horribly for some, if not all, of the trapped U.S. citizens.
Americans in Afghanistan, many of whom are scattered throughout the country, have been instructed to make their way to the evacuation point at Hamid Karzai International Airport. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also published a warning this week, advising U.S. citizens the U.S. government “cannot ensure safe passage” to the airport in Kabul for evacuation. This means anyone who wants to leave will be at the mercy of the Taliban.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin addressed reports that Taliban patrols have blocked some Americans from getting to the evacuation point. The U.S. government, Austin said, is urging the Taliban to do better, citing “unfortunate incidents .”
There’s also a rather stunning Washington Post report this week that claims Biden administration officials told Senate staffers there is “no plan to evacuate Americans who are still outside of Kabul, as they do not have a way of getting through the Taliban checkpoints outside the capital city.”
There it is. There’s the truth.
If you want to know why White House officials are being so evasive this week about whether they have a plan to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan, it’s because they don’t. Worse, the White House is signaling loudly it believes the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will likely end poorly for the many, possibly thousands, of American citizens trapped there right now.
Author : Becket Adams
Source : Washington Examiner : An evasive White House quietly hints that not all Americans will make it out of Afghanistan