How Many Stranded Americans?

As Scott has noted, the Biden administration now claims that having extracted around 6,000 Americans from Afghanistan, only a very few remain–a few hundred, or maybe just one hundred. But these numbers are radically different from what the administration was telling us only days ago.

The first estimate I saw from an administration spokesman was that there were between 5,000 and 10,000 Americans in Afghanistan. Just two weeks ago, Jen Psaki told us with seeming specificity that there were 11,000, or perhaps more:

We are — there have been — how the process works, I should say — I’ll tell you — is that there are individuals who will self-identify as American citizens — that number is around 11,000. Beyond that — around the country — beyond that, though, there are individuals who may not have self-identified, who may come and request assistance and come to the airport.

We’re going to work to assist, of course, American citizens, but we also have a responsibility and an obligation to help the men and women who served by our sides, many of your — the sides of your colleagues, as translators, and as interpreters, and our locally employed staff, and others.

Q So, just to confirm, 11,000 in the entire country, not just in Kabul?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just say, that’s the self-identified number, right? So — but we will continue to provide assistance. And we are prioritizing American citizens. We are also working to get additional officials out who have played an important role.

There obviously was some kind of process in which around 11,000 people “self-identified” as American citizens, yet that number has now been dropped to 6,000. Why? Further, subsequent to Psaki’s August 17 press conference the administration estimated that there were 10,000 to 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan.

If the Biden administration has tried to explain why its estimates of the number of Americans in Afghanistan, made just days ago, were so drastically off the mark, I haven’t seen it. Failing a meaningful explanation, one is tempted to assume the worst: that the administration has no idea how many Americans it has left to the mercy of the Taliban, and is simply pretending that there were around 6,000 Americans in-country when the evacuation began, because that is the number its pathetic operation was able to save.