Suggesting that the airlift from Afghanistan is still far from over, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that as many as 1,500 Americans may be awaiting evacuation from the Taliban-controlled country.
In a news conference, Blinken said the State Department estimates there were about 6,000 Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan when the airlift began August 14, when the Taliban reached Kabul, and that about 4,500 of them have been evacuated so far.
Blinken's figures come after days of inquiry for official estimates of how many Americans remain in the nation who need to be safely evacuated ahead of a planned U.S. force pullout scheduled for Tuesday.
About 500 people have been contacted with instructions on when and how to get to the chaotic Kabul airport to catch evacuation flights, Blinken said. Meanwhile, additionally 1,000 or perhaps fewer are being contacted regularly to determine whether they still want to leave.
Blinken said some of these may already have left the country, some may want to remain and some may not actually be American citizens.
"We’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication — phone, email, text-messaging — to determine whether they still want to leave," he said.
The ongoing efforts are towards reaching the final 1,000 Americans ahead of the US withdrawal.
Since August 14, when the Taliban seized the Afghan capital of Kabul, more than 82,000 people have been evacuated from the country in one of the biggest US airlifts in history, according to reports from Associated Press.
The pace has increased, and it's still chaotic as people seek to leave the country. Afghans trying to reach the Kabul airport face a number of dangers, and there are more who want to leave than will be able to.
Those that make it out will face resettlement challenges, either in the US or somewhere else, and time is short. President Joe Biden set an August 31 deadline to complete the US-led evacuation.