WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday scolded a journalist who asked her about Americans “stranded” in Afghanistan — insisting it is “irresponsible” to use that term despite numerous reports of Americans being unable to board flights out.
Biden administration officials say they don’t know how many US citizens remain in the country following last week’s Taliban takeover, but some are alerting news outlets that they cannot reach Kabul’s airport to be evacuated.
“I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not. We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home home,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.
“We are in touch with them via phone, via text, via email, via any way that we can possibly reach Americans to get them home if they want to return home.”
When pressed by Peter Doocy of Fox News on whether Americans are stranded, Psaki added, “I’m just calling you out for saying that we are stranding Americans in Afghanistan when I said — when we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home. We are going to bring them home and I think that’s important for the American public to hear and understand.”
The crisis in Kabul has put the White House on the defensive regarding President Biden’s preparations for the withdrawal of US troops by Aug. 31 following 20 years of war. The swift Taliban offensive left many Americans behind enemy lines.
A senior US official told The Post on Monday that the White House estimates about 4,000 Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan, meaning that thousands may remain in Taliban-held areas.
The official said that the Pentagon initially estimated there were 8,000-10,000 Americans in Afghanistan and the State Department estimated 10,000-15,0000 US citizens.
Biden administration officials on Monday continued to plead ignorance on the precise number of Americans who may need to be rescued.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday that “the reason why we can’t give you a precise number is because not every American who comes into Afghanistan goes and puts themselves in a database at the US embassy.”
There are many press reports of Americans unable to reach the Kabul airport. One American, David Marshall Fox, told The Post on Thursday that he and his son unsuccessfully sought to enter the airport on Wednesday while presenting his US passport.
Washington Post reporter Susannah George revealed Monday that British troops helped her get to Kabul airport so she could board a US evacuation flight.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week that the approximately 5,200 US troops in Kabul “don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people” because they have to keep the airport secure.