The Biden administration is gaslighting the fiasco in Afghanistan in a variety of ways, e.g. by hailing the current chaotic skedaddle as the biggest airlift on record, as though it were a positive achievement. But the administration knows its biggest problem is the likelihood–or inevitability–that it won’t be able to get all U.S. citizens out of Afghanistan.

This question has always been clouded by the fact that no one knows how many Americans were in Afghanistan when the exodus began. Administration spokesmen have offered various estimates, including 5,000 to 10,000; 11,000; and 10,000 to 15,000. Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken implied that the true number is far lower:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said that up to 1,500 US citizens are still stranded in Afghanistan — shortly after President Biden joked with a reporter who asked about possibly leaving Americans behind in the Taliban-controlled nation.
“Over the last 10 days, roughly 4,500 of these Americans have been safely evacuated along with immediate family members. Over the past 24 hours, we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely,” Blinken said.

“We’ll update you regularly on our progress in getting these 500 American citizens out of Afghanistan. For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we have who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day through multiple channels of communication.”

These numbers suggest that there were more like 6,000 Americans in Afghanistan when the crisis began, a much lower number than we previously have been led to believe. Further, Blinken argued that quite a few of these may not want to leave:

“We’ve also found that many people who contact us and identify themselves as American citizens, including by filling out and submitting repatriation assistance forms, are not in fact US citizens, something that can take some time to verify,” Blinken said.

“Some Americans may choose to stay in Afghanistan … Many of them are dual nationals and may consider Afghanistan their home, who have been there for decades, or who may want to stay close to extended family. And there are Americans who are still evaluating their decision to leave based on the situation on the ground that evolves daily, in fact that evolves hourly.”

Blinken said some Americans “even change their mind from one day to the next, as has happened, and will likely continue to happen.”

So the administration is preparing to declare victory, no matter where the final numbers come to rest. We will be told that there weren’t so many Americans in danger after all, and that those who didn’t catch an outgoing flight probably wanted to stay.

I doubt whether this approach can work, given the images of chaos and violence that we have all seen. Americans are never going to buy the withdrawal from Afghanistan as a success story. Whether it gets worse than that depends, I think, on whether and to what extent specific stories of Americans stranded in Afghanistan come to light.

The administration faces two main dangers. The first is that family members of Americans abandoned in Afghanistan come forward. If there really are several thousand Americans who were left behind, this seems inevitable, with the only question one of degree. If we don’t start hearing from family members, it will suggest that the initial estimates of Americans in Afghanistan were indeed far too high.

The second threat comes from the Taliban. They might take American hostages, triggering a crisis like the one that destroyed the Jimmy Carter administration. Or, even worse, the Taliban could post photos and videos of the slaughter of Americans who were left behind by Joe Biden. That is the ultimate nightmare for the administration. Biden’s best hope may be that the Taliban has control over its fighters, and doesn’t want to rock the boat while it consolidates control over its country. Its interests, in other words, may align with Joe Biden’s to the limited extent of not wanting to publicize any atrocities that may be committed against Americans. That is the pass to which we have come.

UPDATE: This Epoch Times piece sheds additional light:

U.S. troops have not rescued any Americans in Afghanistan outside of Kabul, though they have the capability to do so, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Only three rescue missions have been conducted by American soldiers since the Taliban took over the country, according to military officials. But all three took place within Kabul, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.
Asked if the United States could help an American couple who is reportedly in Mazar-e-Sharife, he answered bluntly, “No.”

Again, no one has suggested that all Americans who need to be evacuated are in Kabul, but it appears that anyone outside that city is on his own.

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