A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has conceded that the New York Democrat falsely claimed that “all” Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan “have come out.” Government officials say that fewer than 100 U.S. citizens, and an unknown number of U.S. legal permanent residents, who want to leave Afghanistan are still in the country.
Schumer made his remarks in an interview with NewsChannel 9 at the state fair in Syracuse, New York, on Sept. 3. When asked about the political impact of the chaotic and deadly Afghanistan exit on the 2022 midterm elections, Schumer said he couldn’t predict what will happen.
Schumer, Sept. 3: They’ll be a job for congressional oversight. There always is. But at the moment, actually, I’m still focused on trying to get some of those brave Afghans out. The Americans, all of whom wanted to come out, have come out. Praise God. But there are a lot of Afghans who risked their lives for our soldiers and others. Many got out, some didn’t. And I’m still working on trying to get some of them out.
A particularly poignant story: There’s a orchestra of young people, co-ed, the Taliban hates them, they hate music, and they hate boys and girls performing. We tried to get them out. I spoke to Gen. [Mark] Milley about a number of different cases, including that one. They got up to the gate and the Taliban checkpoint turned them back.
So, now the hope is we can figure out a way — the State Department has worked out the borders are going to be safe to cross for three or four countries, and maybe they can get out that way. But, so right now the focus is still on trying to get some of these folks out, and then there’ll be time for oversight.
But the U.S. military did not evacuate all Americans who wanted to leave before the last soldier departed Afghanistan.
In his Aug. 31 speech on ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said that the vast majority of Americans who wanted to get out had already been evacuated, with about “100 to 200 Americans” who intend to leave still in the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an Aug. 30 speech that the figure of Americans remaining was “likely closer to 100.”
As we wrote in a Sept. 2 story, that means that Biden broke his Aug. 18 promise that U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan “to get them all out” — even if it was necessary to stay beyond Aug. 31.
The figure for remaining Americans also did not include U.S. legal permanent residents, or green card holders, who wanted to be evacuated, State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed in a Sept. 1 press briefing. Price said he was not able to provide “a firm figure as to how many LPRs may be in Afghanistan who wish to leave.”
A spokesperson for Schumer has since admitted that the senator’s claim was inaccurate.
“He misspoke and he regrets the confusion his comments have caused,” his spokesperson told us in an email. “He intended to say, as he has been saying, that the U.S. will get everyone out that wants to get out. And he will keep working with the Biden Administration to help everyone who wants to get out.”
The Latest Figures
At a Sept. 7 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there were “just under” 100 American citizens still in Afghanistan.
Psaki noted that over the weekend, there were “four American citizens who were able to depart overland. That’s one of the ways that we are working with American citizens to get out of the country. And obviously, our secretary of state is on the ground in Qatar — I think still as of this moment — and getting Qatar airlines up and operational as part of our objective as well.”
During a press briefing earlier in the day from Doha, Qatar, Secretary of State Blinken said, “At this point we believe the number of those who have American citizenship, many of them dual-nationals, who remain in Afghanistan is somewhere around a hundred. We’re in direct contact with virtually all of them. We have case management teams assigned to them to make sure that those who want to leave can, in fact, do so.”
Blinken said that going back to March, “we issued 19 separate messages to Americans registered with the embassy encouraging them and then urging them to leave Afghanistan given the security situation. … By the time the evacuation commenced in August, we believe there were somewhere in the vicinity of 6,000 American citizens in Afghanistan, and virtually all of them were evacuated in those couple of weeks that we were working out of Kabul International Airport.”
“But it’s not surprising that despite the situation, despite the long encouragement of people to leave, that some people did not or could not make a decision to do so, in part because this is such an incredibly wrenching decision, because for these people, they are for the most part people who’ve been in Afghanistan for years, decades, possibly even generations,” Blinken said. “For them, Afghanistan is home; their extended families are there, and making that decision is extraordinarily hard.”
Blinken added, “We’re holding the Taliban to the commitments that they’ve made to ensure the free passage and safe travel for anyone who wants to leave Afghanistan, starting with any American citizens who wish to do so.”
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