Speed Reads

Kabul Airlift

Nobody seems sure how many Americans are still waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan

President Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. has facilitated the evacuation of 70,700 people from Kabul's international airport in the previous 10 days, and the pace is accelerating — 33,600 of those evacuees were airlifted out from Monday morning to Tuesday evening. 

"We're currently on a pace to finish by Aug. 31," Biden said, though "the sooner we can finish, the better," for security reasons. The Pentagon and State Department are developing contingency plans "to adjust the timeline should that become necessary," he added. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said about 4,000 U.S. passport holders and their families have been evacuated from Kabul, "we expect that number to grow in coming days," and Biden's Aug. 31 deadline should give the U.S. enough time to get all Americans out.

"The Biden administration has provided a stream of updates about its airlift of Americans, Afghans, and others since Aug. 14," The New York Times reports. "Yet U.S. officials are reluctant to offer an estimate of the one number that matters most: How many people ultimately need to be rescued." The Biden administration believes there may still be thousands of Americans around Afghanistan, many without a safe or fast way to get to the airport. Some are believed to have crossed by land into Pakistan. 

"The U.S. Embassy in Kabul is contacting Americans who are believed to be in Afghanistan" and "offering them safe passage to the airport in Kabul to fly out," the Times reports. "But the alerts are going only to Americans who provided the government their location before Kabul fell or in the week since." Most of the Americans still in Afghanistan are dual citizens who may never have checked in with the State Department, one official told the Times. The White House says they're working to find them.

As for the non-Americans, it depends on who's counting. The Biden administration has identified about 50,000 special immigrant visa applicants and their families to be evacuated, a congressional aide told the Times, and one administration official said some100,000 endangered Afghan civilians could need rescue. The International Rescue Committee puts that number at 300,000. 

"Aid groups working on getting people out of Afghanistan were told by Western officials involved in the effort that Friday would be the last day to travel through the Kabul airport," The Wall Street Journal reports. "After that, they have been told, the U.S. will focus on wrapping up operations to meet the Aug. 31 deadline."