The State Department admitted on Friday that there were far more Americans in Afghanistan than expected, leading Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., And other Republicans to accuse the administration of a “betrayal” of Americans abroad.
State Department officials briefed Congressional staff this week and told them they were in contact with 363 Americans in Afghanistan and nearly 176 lawful permanent residents, a Congressional source who was at Fox News told Fox News. the call.
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That number of 363 is significantly higher than previous estimates from the Biden administration, which put the number at around 100 in September – and is just the number the State Department is in contact with. CNN first reported the figure of 363.
It comes amid the continued fallout from the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of the August 31 withdrawal deadline – which saw a stampede of Americans and Afghans trying to get out of the country before the Taliban took power.
During a press briefing on Friday, State Department spokesman Ned Price did not confirm to reporters the number with which the department was in contact as a whole – but said the number of Americans who actually wanted to leave were at one point under 100 but were now between 100 and 200 in a fluid situation on the ground.
“This number has increased in recent days as more Americans in Afghanistan have decided to leave in light of our successful facilitation of dozens of departures in recent weeks,” he said.
So far, the State Department has facilitated the departure of 234 citizens and 144 lawful permanent residents, he said.
Issa, who worked to evacuate a number of Americans stranded in Afghanistan to the United States, said he viewed the numbers as evidence the administration lied about the withdrawal.
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“What we have long suspected is now confirmed: What the White House calls a historically successful airlift was actually the worst betrayal of US citizens ever in a foreign country,” he told Fox News. “So they lied about it from the start.”
Issa’s reaction was shared by Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Who accused the administration of shamelessly and repeatedly lying about the number of Americans trapped behind Taliban lines.
“For weeks their official number was ‘around a hundred’ and as if by magic it never changed – as Americans slowly came out of it, the total number never went down,” he said. he declares.
The employee who took part in the call suggested that there were many more that the State Department was not yet in contact with, perhaps because they are afraid to come forward by fear of retaliation from the Taliban.
“What about the people they’re not in contact with?” The staff member told Fox News. “Those who are afraid to express themselves, how do you put a number on it, or who are afraid to use WhatsApp or to send an SMS to an American +1 number, or even to send an SMS in English? ” they said.
The employee told Fox that the State Department said it was working with third parties to get people out of Afghanistan, putting in conduits to streamline the process – while admitting that the guidelines had been puzzling as to the charter flights required to take off and land in aid of the evacuation effort.
Price on Friday said the department’s goal was to make flights from Kabul more routine in order to facilitate even more departures of Americans and others – “and we are committed to doing so.”
“We have also constantly said that there is a slightly larger universe of Americans that we are in contact with that are not yet ready, for whatever reason, to leave,” he said. “That number is also far from fixed as Americans contact us, and given the dynamics – the very dynamic nature of human decision-making.”
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On Friday, Issa announced that a US citizen, Prince Wafa, who had worked as a translator and traveled to Afghanistan to bring his wife home, had been successfully evacuated. Issa’s office said it was in regular contact with the man, as well as State Department staff. The man had previously written to President Biden asking for help.
“Prince Wafa provided exceptional support to our troops and courageously served our country when we needed it,” Issa said in a statement. “This time he risked everything by going back to Afghanistan to bring his wife home. The Biden administration left them behind and we didn’t rest until they were on the way home.”
As the situation in Afghanistan continues to unfold, the employee who spoke to Fox said the situation felt the administration “has broken a social contract between America and its citizens.”
“When I go abroad, there’s never any doubt in my mind that if anything happened, that blue passport would get me out of trouble – I have my doubts about that now.”
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