There are around 150 US citizens left in Afghanistan that the US needs to get to the airport, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The source said the estimate is the number known to need assistance reaching the airport at 8 a.m. local time on Thursday morning.
They added that since midnight local time, 200 had been evacuated to the base and flew away. This brings the total number of US citizens evacuated since Aug. 14 to 4,700, the source added.
The statement suggests that the operational total of Americans to be evacuated is lower than the larger totals provided by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Blinken said Wednesday afternoon that there were 500 identified Americans who needed help getting to the airport. Blinken added that there were 1,000 more who may need help, but whose citizenship or desire to leave was uncertain. Considering the overnight evacuation rate, the operational total of 150 may be a revised update of Blinken’s total of 500, and may even include some of the 1,000 uncertain cases.
The source added that there were 36 hours left before the end of the operation to evacuate, and the focus was now on local Afghan staff who worked for the US embassy. “US citizens continue to flow but their priority has shifted to local staff,” the source said.
The source estimated that there were around 1,800 Afghan staff at the US Embassy to get to the airport and “36 hours to do so.” They had already recovered 1,300 local workers and evacuated them, they said.
Access to the base is increasingly difficult, the source said. The source added that all doors to the base were now closed except the one that Afghan security forces were using unofficially to bring in their evacuees.
The main airport access point for many Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, the Abbey Gate, was “completely” closed earlier Thursday, possibly due to one of the many IED threats, they added. “They sort of got people through yesterday, but I think it’s totally cleaned up and closed now. They had multiple IED threats all the time.
The source added that the closing of the gates means there are “tons of special interest groups circling around the airport on buses trying to figure out how to get in. Very little can be done for them, although they would love to help. So literally no one else can come in ”unless they are escorted. “Not even approved SIVs.”
The source expressed frustration with how connections to Washington DC were forcing the operation to prioritize certain people. “These Congressional / WH special interest groups that continue to emerge are distracting from the primary mission of bringing out those people to whom we, the United States, have given our word.”
The source said the evacuation operation – although already on the verge of ending – would end on Friday. The source added that the British were leaving on Thursday evening. CNN has contacted the UK Ministry of Defense for comment.
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