Hundreds of US decisions have yet to be made about whether or not to leave Afghanistan, the State Department said Friday, despite the deadline for the withdrawal of the US military only four days away.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said some people changed their minds every time they were asked because they were concerned about their decision.
He said at least 5,100 US citizens had been evacuated since August 14 — the day before Kabul fell to the Taliban — including 300 in the past 24 hours.
“There are currently about 500 U.S. citizens we work with who want to leave and with whom we communicate directly to facilitate their evacuation,” Price said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday several hundred U.S. citizens have yet to decide whether to leave Afghanistan.
A US soldier holds a sign indicating a gate is closed as hundreds of people gather – some with documents – at Kabul airport on Thursday
“We are communicating with several hundred American citizens who have not yet determined whether they want to leave for various reasons.”
Some considered leaving homes and relatives behind, while others pondered the long-term implications for their safety.
US officials have been telling them in 19 separate messages since March that the window for them to leave safely was closing.
Price emphasized that they regularly spoke to people who were not yet sure whether they wanted to leave.
“When we say we were in regular contact, we mean regular contact, several times a day, sometimes hearing one answer, other times hearing another as the remaining Americans make these decisions,” Price said.
A Marine gives a high five to a child outside Kabul . airport on Thursday
The number who don’t want to leave because they may have relatives in the country is “relatively small,” he added.
Anthony Blinken, the secretary of state, said on Wednesday the department is still trying to reach 1,000 potential citizens to confirm their status.
“Some may not be in the country anymore. Some may have claimed to be Americans but turn out not to be. Some may choose to stay,’ Blinken said.
He said registering with the US embassy and informing them of their whereabouts, arrival and departure was optional.
Blinken stressed that every effort had been made to encourage American citizens to leave.
“We’ve even made it clear that we would help pay for their repatriation, and we’ve provided multiple channels of communication for Americans to contact us if they’re in Afghanistan and want help with their departure,” Blinken said.
Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, is seen with a briefing on Wednesday
He said many of those who have previously chosen to stay are dual citizens, who have lived there for many years and have deep ties to the country.
Blinken said during the brief Wednesday that some had indicated they were still deciding whether to stay “based on the situation on the ground that evolves daily — in fact, it evolves hourly.”
He added: “Some are understandably very scared.
“Everyone has a set of personal priorities and considerations that only they can weigh. They can even change their mind overnight, as has happened and probably will continue to happen.”
Evacuees will be escorted in planes from Kabul on Wednesday. to fly
Sher Jan Ahmadzai, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said: USA today that some American citizens of Afghan descent may be left behind because they are politically behind the Taliban and do not feel threatened.
Still, Mustafa Babak, a board member of the Afghan-American Foundation and diaspora researcher, told the paper that he would not advise US citizens to stay after August 31.
“The situation is so uncertain and unstable,” Babak said.
“I think anyone caught with a US passport is at a lot of risk.”
Babak said the danger comes not just from the Taliban — who are currently believed to have taken Mark Frerichs, an Illinois civil engineer, hostage — but from the rival ISIS-K extremist group.
ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the Kabul airport bombing that killed 13 US servicemen and 170 Afghans.
Two women are escorted by a US Marine to a US Air Force plane, to leave Kabul on Tuesday
Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division escort a group of people to the terminal at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday.
A soldier stands guard on the outskirts of Kabul . airport on Tuesday
Vicki Aken, an American who heads the International Rescue Committee’s office in Kabul, told NPR she is staying in Afghanistan to support the organization’s staff, 99% of whom are Afghans.
The IRC began operating in Kabul in 1988 and continued its work there when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
They work on development projects such as rural schools and access to clean water.
“They feel that the world has let them down and that after August 31, no one will care,” she said.
“And I know that’s not true. I am an American myself. I know my people care about them.’
Aachen told NPR she was contacted by the US embassy and offered a chance to evacuate, but she declined.