@StateDept Provides Updates on Afghanistan Evacuation: 42,000 Relocated Since End of July

 

It has been over a week since the fall of Kabul. The State Department continues its evacuation from the capital city of Afghanistan. Since the end of July, approximately 42,000 people reportedly been evacuated and relocated. As of this writing, the State Department has not released the number of Americans evacuated from Afghanistan supposedly “in part because that number changes all the time.” This evacuation may be chaotic, but one thing consular folks would definitely track is the Amcit status of evacuees.
How many Americans are in Afghanistan? Estimates vary from 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. citizens in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan according to Reuters. The report also cited Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby who put the number between 5,000 and 10,000 for U.S. citizens  believed to be in the Kabul area. On August 24, NBC News quoted the Pentagon spox saying: “As of today, August 24, we have evacuated approximately 4,000 American passport holders plus their families. We expect that number to continue to grow in the coming days.”
The State Department’s  F-77 report would have an estimate of the number of Americans in the country prior to fall of Kabul.  The report submitted annually provides an estimation of the number of private American citizens in a country, based in part on traveler registration, and is used by State and DOD in planning for and conducting evacuations of American citizens. Of course, reporting a U.S. citizen’s presence overseas at a US Embassy is not mandatory. Dual national may not also report their presence, and could not be counted. While the F-77 data is not perfect, it will have an approximate number of how many Americans post’s believe would need support in an evacuation.
Via the State Department Press Briefing, August 23, 2021:

— …From 3:00 a.m. on August 22nd to 3:00 a.m. on August 23rd, 28 U.S. military flights evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul.

—  Since August 14th, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people.

— Since the end of last month, the end of July, we have relocated approximately 42,000 people.

— … officers from the U.S. missions in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and India are assisting, as well as many consular staff from this building and from throughout the Washington, D.C. region.

— The United States wants to sincerely thank the governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Italy, and Spain for their help in our efforts to safely transit U.S. citizens, at-risk Afghans, and other evacuees from Afghanistan.

— The temporary transit locations we have established at U.S. or joint bases in Germany, Italy, and Spain have capacity to process at least 15,000 people on a rolling basis, significantly expanding our ability to facilitate the relocation of U.S. citizens and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan.

Doubled Consular presence on the ground. How many?

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, also really briefly, are you guys still sending consular and other people to Kabul to work at the airport, or has that now – have you now reached the – what you need?

MR PRICE: Well, so we are always evaluating the situation on the ground to determine that we have the right staffing posture to accommodate the tasks that we need to take on. We talked about this last week, but as of late last week we had doubled the number of consular officers on the ground in Kabul. We had sent additional consular officers to some of those initial transit sites in the Gulf, including to Qatar, to Kuwait, and the UAE. But the broader point I would make is that we have been able to take advantage of consular officers throughout this building and around the world.

QUESTION: Okay. But I’m not interested in the broader point. I’m just interested in an answer to the question. Are you still sending people there?

MR PRICE: If —

QUESTION: And if you’re not – which is fine if you are or not, I just want to know if you’re still ramping up. And then on the opposite end of that is that we are approaching the 31st, and if there is no extension in this, you guys are going to have to start thinking, and I want to know have you already started thinking about drawing them back down again if, in fact, they are going to leave, or if you guys think that maybe you can go back to the embassy.

MR PRICE: Well, we are always evaluating what we have on the ground compared with our needs. If we need more people on the ground, we won’t hesitate to do it. We came to that conclusion last week. That’s why we doubled the presence of consular officers on the ground.

Has the Secretary spoken with anyone?

QUESTION: Okay, last one. Yesterday – and I didn’t see this interview; I saw the first one, I didn’t see the second one – in the CBS interview, the Secretary, according to the transcript that you guys put out, misspoke and said that he had spoken to President Karzai. And I’m less interested in his misspeaking and more interested in knowing whether or not there has been any discussion between the Secretary or anyone else, like Zal or anyone, between the U.S. and former President Karzai, or Abdullah Abdullah, or the others who are now in discussions with the Taliban leadership.

MR PRICE: Absolutely. So, as you know, Matt, there continues to be dialogue between the Afghans – that is to say, representatives of Islamic Republic – and the Taliban. For our part, we have been in touch with relevant and key stakeholders, individuals who are taking part in intra-Afghan discussions with the Taliban. We’re not in a position to read those calls out. This has been primarily on the part of our team in Doha, our team on the ground in Afghanistan, to make sure that we have a regular line in to those Afghan stakeholders.

QUESTION: So the Secretary has not been in touch with —

MR PRICE: No.

Local Staff Questions

QUESTION: Ned, my colleague reported that on Saturday a cable came here – a memo was sent to Afghan staff at the embassy on Wednesday inviting them to head to the airport and that it was so difficult for them to – the physical situation was simply impossible, and that some staff reported being separated from children. They said, quote, “It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet than face the crowds again.” One staff member said they felt betrayed, that it was – it undermined their sense of dignity, their loyalty. This is embassy staff who should have been presumably prioritized, but they were left behind when the evacuation took place, basically.

MR PRICE: …. We have an obligation to these individuals, a sacrosanct obligation. They have served the United States. They have not only worked for us, they have worked with us. Our embassies around the world could not function without locally engaged staff. That is as true in Paris or London as it is in a place like Kabul. So we absolutely have a responsibility to these individuals who have worked with our colleagues on the ground in Kabul and, in some cases, over years or even longer. They are absolutely a priority in terms of our evacuation and relocation planning.

As you know, Andrea, we are now in a position to offer tailored, personalized advice to those we are relocating from Afghanistan, to those we are evacuating from Afghanistan. We’ve been doing that, of course, to American citizens. We’ve been doing that to Special Immigrant Visa applicants. We’ve been doing that to other Afghans at risk. But our locally engaged staff, they are absolutely a priority, they are absolutely part of our plans, and that commitment to them, to their safety and security, is something that is in no way diminished.

QUESTION: Well, couldn’t they – why weren’t they on the original evacuation from the embassy?

MR PRICE: So when the embassy was evacuated and our personnel started to make the way from the embassy in Kabul to the secure facility on the airport compound, many of, if not all of, our locally engaged staff were not present on the embassy compound at that time. They were working remotely given the volatile security situation. Many of them were at home, were not at work. I can tell you that we have been able to relocate members of our locally engaged staff, but they were not brought to the airport compound with the American direct hires at that time just because they weren’t at the embassy compound by and large that day.

Vetting evacuees

QUESTION: But I’m asking you a different question. Surging resources doesn’t answer the question as to why not do this at the third country – surge them there and get them out of Kabul, where they can have better facilities, sanitation, food, et cetera.

MR PRICE: Well, that vetting by and large is taking place at these third countries. When it comes to SIVs, again, all of those who have received instructions to come to the airport have already completed certain stages of the security vetting process. So that initial vet on these individuals has been completed. In many cases, they’re then taken to a third country, where they will undergo more rigorous vetting if it hasn’t yet been completed.

But that is very much the point of the network of transit countries and partner countries throughout the Middle East, throughout Europe, the rest of the world – more than 26 countries across four continents. It is in part a system that will allow us to provide safe haven to these individuals who in some cases – well, in all cases before they come to the United States, but in some cases still need to complete part of that rigorous vetting process.

Number of Americans evacuated –  no precise figure

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. A couple of questions. One, the National Security Advisor in his briefing at the White House earlier today was asked for the number of American citizens who have been evacuated. He indicated he would give that number out; he just didn’t have it at hand. Do you have that number?

MR PRICE: I don’t have a precise figure to give you, in part because that number changes all the time. Just within the past 24 hours, again, more than 10,400 people. We are evacuating thousands upon thousands of people per day, so I just don’t have that figure to provide right now.

What happens after August 31st?

QUESTION: One final quick point. When you say the Taliban has made commitments, does the Taliban understand that given the U.S.’s commitment to its citizens, to SIV applicants, and to others in that pool, that if this operation needs to go beyond August 31st the Taliban must allow that operation to continue?

MR PRICE: Look, this is a decision that only one person will be able to make. That person is not in Afghanistan. That person is not in this building. That person sits in an office without corners in the White House. President Biden will ultimately have to decide when this operation will come to a close. I can tell you that it is our goal to move as quickly as we can and as efficiently as we can to bring to safety as many people as we can. And I think you are seeing in the metrics in recent days and certainly over the past 24 hours that we are making good progress on that.

It is not our goal to be there one day, one hour, one minute longer than is absolutely necessary, but not going to get ahead of that.

 

###

Unable to Handle Question About Bolton Book, @StateDept Mutes Reporter During Free Press Briefing

It was a darn comedy hour in Foggy Bottom on Monday. The A/S for EAP David Stilwell had a press briefing on Chinese propaganda and the free press. When asked a question about Bolton’s book and whether allies in the region have been in touch, the State Department spox asked that the line be muted. A short while later, the spox called on Nick Wadhams of Bloomberg who asked A/S Stilwell “to comment on the message you think it sends to foreign journalists and other people who would be listening to this call that you guys are not willing to take questions on the John Bolton book when you’re also talking about a message of ensuring freedom of the press in the United States?”
A reasonable and necessary question on the free press.
The State Department spokesperson later blasted the Bloomberg reporter for  what she considered a “pretty offensive question” and claimed that they “take as many questions as we can.” and “have proven to be available 24/7 to all of you and we will always answer them.” That my friends we can tell you from experience is laughable; we still have unanswered questions waiting under mysterious cobwebs. And we’re definitely not the only ones to let out a guffaw upon hearing that remark.
Excerpt:

ASSISTANT SECRETARY STILWELL: Finally, as Secretary Pompeo has said, we’re not just comparing apples to apples.  The U.S. system guarantees press freedom while China subordinates the press to the Communist Party.  We are formally recognizing that fact in today’s action.  That’s – concludes the formal comments.  I’ll be happy to take your questions.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Thanks.  Next up in the queue, David Brunnstrom, Reuters.

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you very much for doing this.  I was wondering, slightly changing the subject to former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book —

MS ORTAGUS:  Hey, David, David, that’s not what this call’s about.  If you would like to ask about our new policy action today, we’re more than happy to take the question.  If not, I can move on in the queue.

QUESTION:  Well, I just wanted to ask whether any allies in the region have been in touch with —

MS ORTAGUS:  David —

QUESTION:  — the assistant secretary on this issue for clarification.

MS ORTAGUS:  Thank you, David.  Okay.  AT&T, we can mute that line.  We’ll now go to Will Mauldin, Wall Street Journal.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Okay. Thanks, Will.  Nick Wadhams, Bloomberg.

QUESTION:  Hi, I have two questions.  The first question is:  Can you – I think you answered this previously.  What are the specific numbers when you talk about each of the news organizations CCTV, CNS, People’s Daily, and Global Times?

And Dave, can I also get you to comment on the message you think it sends to foreign journalists and other people who would be listening to this call that you guys are not willing to take questions on the John Bolton book when you’re also talking about a message of ensuring freedom of the press in the United States?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY STILWELL:  Hey, that’s pretty easy.  This one is focused on a guy from the East Asia Pacific bureau who could speak with great fluency to the topic at hand.  If you were to ask me the other, is – my answer would be a deflecting “I really don’t know.”  I got to tell you, I am not checking that story.  I am too busy working this particular issue, so – so I – again, I would rethink that approach to how we’re handling this.  You can ask anybody, especially those who are related to this, but for the subject at hand today in the short seven minutes we have left, I would like to talk about the subject at hand.

So you asked about numbers.  We don’t know.  That’s part of what this is going to identify is that these folks, we have allowed them to come into the country as journalists.  Now acknowledging the fact that they are not, we know what companies they work for.  They will then have to identify themselves as work – that they do work for these organizations.  And then from that, we will have a better accounting for who they are, who is on their personnel rosters, and what real estate holdings they have.  So it’s pretty straightforward.

It’s – as I said before, this is housekeeping, right?  We’re just cleaning up some broken glass and stuff that we hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to in the past.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Thanks.  We’re already over time, so that’s going to have to be our last question of the day.  We will have a statement out around 3 o’clock, and that’s when our embargo will be lifted.  However, before I end the call, I do think it’s – I’m going to have to address what I consider a pretty offensive question by Nick Wadhams.

We strive every day to give all of you multiple briefings a day.  The Secretary goes to the podium once a week and we take as many questions as we can.  We try to be very quick over email in responding to what all of you need.  And so if there’s any question about any books by any officials or anything you may have, we’re – have proven to be available 24/7 to all of you and we will always answer them.  We like to focus these policy briefings on the policy, but any insinuation that we haven’t made ourselves available or responsive to your questions – Nick’s insinuation is offensive and I just would like to go on the record that that’s totally inaccurate.

HA! HA! HA!  There, she said it on the record, and media folks covering the Foggiest Bottom are dying with laughter.

Secretary of “Deep State Department” Michael R. Pompeo Performs During COVID-19 WH Briefing. Please Clap.

 

 

Pompeo on US Embassy Venezuela: US to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that they’re protected.” And if they’re not?

Posted: 4:11 pm PST

Secretary Pompeo appeared today at the State Department Press Briefing Room to announced the appointment of Elliott Abrams as the “it” guy for Venezuela. We will blog about that separately. But here is the secretary of state’s response on the concern about the U.S. diplomats left in Venezuela as Maduro’s 72-hour deadline approaches.

MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to Washington Post. Carol Morello.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I think a lot of people are concerned about the diplomats who are down there. Would you tell us what you’re prepared to do if tomorrow, when the 72-hour deadline passes, they – the Venezuelans cut off electricity and water, maybe even surround the building, or even try to go in to bring out the diplomats by force? Could you be specific about what you are prepared to do in the event of any of these scenarios? And how can you assure people that they are protected?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I appreciate that question. There’s been no activity that’s taken more of our time over the past days than ensuring the protection of all those folks that are under our chief of mission authority there in Venezuela. We’re working diligently to make sure that they are protected. There’s no higher priority for the Secretary of State, and you should know no higher priority for the President of the United States. We have discussed this at some length.

With respect to the way we will deliver that, we’ve made clear to everyone that it is our expectation that the U.S. officials that are there, that have now been invited to be there by interim President Juan Guaido have a right, they have the privileges and immunities that accrue to having been invited to be there by the duly credentialed leader of Venezuela, and we have every expectation that those rights will continue to be protected.

You would have seen today that we have ordered a – have an ordered departure. We’re beginning to move some of our staff out. This is consistent with what the State Department does every day. The first briefing I get every morning is all around the world, every mission, every consulate, every facility where we have officers, I receive a briefing on risk and risk analysis. We’ll continue to do that in Venezuela. It is literally a 24/7, moment-by-moment exercise to evaluate risk to the people who work for me in the State Department, and we’ll get this right. We will make sure that we protect our folks on the ground and take all appropriate measures to ensure that they’re protected.

Thank you.

QUESTION: And if they’re not?

MR PALLADINO: Thank you guys.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all.

More about Venezuela here: