The Secretary of Defense's 'Personal Belief' on How Many Americans He Stranded in Afghanistan

Posted: Sep 28, 2021 12:00 PM
The Secretary of Defense's 'Personal Belief' on How Many Americans He Stranded in Afghanistan

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

In Tuesday's hearing of the Senate Armed Services committee, Biden's Pentagon brass found themselves unable to explain the math behind the number of American citizens left stranded in the Taliban playground of Afghanistan when Biden concluded his incomplete evacuation.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CENTCOM Commander Kenneth McKenzie, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to put a number on "how many American citizens... are still there" in Afghanistan.

After some uncomfortable silence while Biden's military leaders hesitated, Austin said "I would defer to the State Department for that assessment," claiming "that's a dynamic process, they've been contacting the civilians that are in Afghanistan, and again, I would defer to them for definitive numbers."

Inhofe looked to the other witnesses to offer their answer, and Milley said "same." 

"As the Secretary just said, there were numbers at the beginning of this whole process," Milley explained "and we know that we took out almost 6,000 I guess it is, American citizens, but how many remain..."

Inhofe interjected, asking "Do all of you agree that Secretary of State Blinken, when he made his analysis as to how many people would still be there — he talked about 10,000 to 15,000 citizens left behind — and then evacuated some 6,000, that would mean a minimum of 4,000 would still be there now. Would anyone disagree with that?" Inhofe asked.

After another uncomfortable beat of silence, Inhofe concluded that "by your silence I assume you agree."

Austin chimed in saying, "I personally don't believe that there are 4,000 American citizens still left in Afghanistan but I cannot confirm or deny that, Senator."

"So you think the Secretary of State was probably wrong in his analysis," Inhofe asked in a rhetorical conclusion.

Since Pentagon brass conveniently punted the question to the State Department, let's consider what their latest number crunching on Americans still stranded in Afghanistan has yielded. At the beginning of September, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told CNN that "around 100" Americans remained in Afghanistan. Fast forward a few weeks to this Monday, on which a senior State Department official said there are "still about 100 American citizens and lawful permanent residents in Afghanistan who are ready to leave." 

An unmoving number over the course of September while the State Department continued to claim that Americans were being evacuated on civilian flights doesn't add up. And the White House's "100 left" narrative does not fit with the numbers given by Pentagon brass on Tuesday that any logical person with an abacus could deduce suggested several thousands Americans remain stranded.

The Biden administration is apparently relying on fuzzy and inaccurate math and personal belief to determine how many of its own citizens were left stranded in Afghanistan after Biden pulled up stakes and withdrew all remaining military and diplomatic personnel from the country. It's a stunning and contradictory stance for senior Pentagon leaders to take.

In response to a later line of questioning, Milley claimed that American citizens left behind in Afghanistan by Biden would have "been at greater risk" if Biden hadn't abandoned them to the whims of the Taliban, ISIS-K, and Al Qaeda terrorists. 

Even Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) became frustrated with the inability to provide accurate or concrete information on Americans stranded in Afghanistan throughout and after the withdrawal.

"After our withdrawal it was left to an unofficial network or coalition of veterans, NGOs, some government officials," Blumenthal said of the work to rescue the Americans Biden had left behind. "They have targets on their back, their situation is increasingly urgent and desperate" he added. "I have been frustrated by the lack of someone in charge."

"We don’t have an estimate on the number [of Americans stranded in Afghanistan]," he said, "because nobody is in charge right now."

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