Republicans are lacing President Joe Biden after his administration released the number of Americans left behind in Afghanistan nearly two months after he ordered all U.S. military and diplomatic personnel out of the country.
The criticism comes after the State Department on Friday admitted there are hundreds more Americans trapped in the country than previously estimated or announced, which led Rep. Darrell Issa of California and other GOP lawmakers to accuse Biden and his administration of “betrayal.”
According to a briefing provided to congressional staff last week by State Department officials, the administration is in touch with at least 363 Americans and about 176 legal permanent residents, a source familiar with the briefing told Fox News.
The figure is much higher than previous estimates put out by the administration, which said that about 100 Americans remained in the country last month. What’s more, the figure of 363 — first reported by CNN — is only the number of Americans in contact with the State Department.
In late August, just a few days before the president’s Aug. 31 pullout deadline, administration officials said the U.S. had the capacity to evacuate all remaining Americans and legal permanent residents.
“[W]e have the capacity to have 300 Americans, which is roughly the number we think are remaining, come to the airport and get on planes in the time that is remaining,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Aug. 29.
“We moved out more than that number just yesterday. So from our point of view, there is an opportunity right now for American citizens to come, to be admitted to the airport and to be evacuated safely and effectively,” he added.
The new figures come as the administration continues to take heat over the chaotic and deadly withdrawal, which occurred as Taliban forces rapidly took over the country after a 20-year hiatus following the U.S. invasion in October 2001.
Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, would not confirm how many Americans were in touch with the department in sum, but did say that the number of Americans who want to leave Afghanistan was below 100 at one point but has steadily risen to between 100 and 200 as the situation there has become more fluid.
“That figure has risen in recent days as more Americans in Afghanistan have decided to depart in light of our successful facilitation of dozens of departures in recent weeks,” he told reporters.
He added that thus far, the State Department has helped evacuate 234 citizens and 144 lawful permanent residents.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported last month that the White House “has requested funding from Congress to help resettle 65,000 Afghans in the United States by the end of this month and 95,000 by September 2022.”
Issa, who has been trying to facilitate the departure of Americans still trapped in the Taliban-controlled country, accused the Biden administration of lying all along.
“What we long suspected is now confirmed: What the White House calls a historically successful airlift was, in reality, the worst ever betrayal of American citizens in a foreign land,” he told Fox News. “So they lied about it from the beginning.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) shared Issa’s sentiments.
“For weeks, their official number was ‘about a hundred’ and it magically never changed — as Americans slowly got out the total number never went down,” he told the network.
The congressional staffer who leaked details of the phone call to Fox News suggested that there could be many more Americans or U.S. legal residents trapped in Afghanistan but are staying out of sight due to fear.
“What about the people they’re not in touch with?” the staffer said. “Those who are scared to speak out, how do you put a number on that, or that are scared to use WhatsApp or text a +1 American number, or to even text in English?”
The staffer added that it felt as though the Biden administration “has broken a social contract between America and its citizens.”
“When I go overseas there’s never a question in my mind that if something happened that blue passport would get me out of trouble — I have doubts about that now,” the staffer added.
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