White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday twice solicited reporters in the White House briefing room to give her the contact information of any Americans they know who are stranded in Afghanistan — seeming to offer to personally fill in for any coordination gaps in the evacuation of citizens ahead of the projected Aug. 31 withdrawal.
Psaki was pressed repeatedly by reporters who said their news outlets are in contact with Americans who are unable to reach Kabul’s airport to board rescue flights following last week’s Taliban takeover of the country.
Fox News journalist Peter Doocy noted that his network interviewed a woman using the pseudonym Fatima who said she holds US citizenship but can’t get to the airport.
“If we are not in touch with this individual, give me their contact information and we will get in touch with them. If any of you are hearing from American citizens who can’t reach us, give me their contact information, and we will get in contact with them,” Psaki told Doocy at her daily press briefing.
She added: “I would welcome you providing their phone number and we will reach out to them today. And I can assure you of that.”
The US military, however, is not believed to be escorting citizens to safety — unlike British, French and other US-allied militaries — meaning US citizens must traverse Taliban checkpoints and then get past a desperate crowd of Afghans also seeking to board a flight.
Psaki, a former State Department spokeswoman, again offered to help stranded US citizens when Politico reporter Tina Sfondeles asked how Americans who are trapped can get help.
“Anyone who has an American citizen who they are looking to help get out — any of you, send them to me directly and I will get it to the right place. We’re absolutely committed to this,” Psaki said.
“It’s possible that the person you know — or the person Peter knows — we may not have contacted or [have] the right contact information [for], that is also entirely possible.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday that the Islamic fundamentalist group will no longer allow Afghan citizens to reach the airport — adding uncertainty for anyone who holds both US and Afghan citizenship.
Biden administration officials have repeatedly said they don’t know how many Americans are in Afghanistan because US citizens don’t have to register with the embassy.
About 4,000 Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the US-backed government’s fall last week. US estimates put the number of citizens in the country at around 8,000-15,000
Psaki said Tuesday there are a variety of reasons for the continued uncertainty.
“Our estimate of the overall number of American citizens who are there can increase because folks are just now responding to our outreach, who may not have registered. It can also decrease because people leave and they don’t tell us they leave, or individuals who may reach out and convey that they have the documentation needed, don’t,” Psaki said.
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