White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden Administration will continue its effort to evacuate the more than 100 Americans remaining in Afghanistan, even after the full withdrawal of U.S. troops, saying the mission has now “shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission.”
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. announced Monday evening that the last of the U.S. troops stationed at the Kabul airport had left, completing the military’s drawdown in the country, even though hundreds of Americans likely remain.
McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said some American citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan remained in the country.
“We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he said.
Sullivan, during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday morning, was asked about the remaining Americans in Afghanistan—individuals, he said, the Biden Administration is committed to “getting out.”
“We continue our mission to get them out. It’s just that it has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission,” Sullivan said, adding that the U.S. has “considerable leverage over the Taliban to ensure that any remaining American citizen will be able to get out.”
Sullivan said that at the beginning of the U.S. mission to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies on Aug. 14, there was “between 5,500 and 6,000 Americans in Afghanistan.” Sullivan, touting the administration’s efforts, said they “got out 97 or 98% of those on the ground.”
Sullivan said that the administration “contacted repeatedly” the “small number” of Americans who remain in Afghanistan, saying officials encouraged them to “come to the airport.”
Sullivan, though, said that the administration is “committed to getting out and we will work through every available diplomatic means with the enormous leverage that we have and that the international community has to make that happen.”
Meanwhile, the State Department signed a statement with nearly 100 countries, as well as NATO and the European Union, saying that they had received “assurances” from the Taliban that people with travel documents will still be able to leave Afghanistan.
The Taliban has said they will allow normal travel after the U.S. withdrawal is completed on Tuesday and they assume control of the airport.
President Biden, though, has been criticized for his strategy with regard to Afghanistan, but also for his apparent broken promise to stay in Afghanistan until every American is evacuated.
Biden, during an interview on Aug. 18, said that the U.S. military objective in Afghanistan was to get “everyone” out, including Americans and Afghan allies and their families.
“That’s what we’re doing now, that’s the path we’re on. And I think we’ll get there,” he said. “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”
A senior State Department official on Monday put the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan at “below 250,” and added that the State Department is also committed to evacuating “those who worked with us,” referring to Afghan “partners.”