During a White House press conference on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was questioned about the possibility of Americans being stranded in Afghanistan after August 31, and whether or not the White House has plans in place to get those that want to leave out past the date.
"Blinken was really specific in giving numbers for Americans that actively want to get out of Afghanistan. Has the State Department made direct contact and confirmed with all American citizens that they might want to stay in Afghanistan or is it off the assumption that if they haven't contacted the embassy or the State Department that they must not want to leave?" asked reporter Shelby Talcott from the Daily Caller.
"Well, I would say first, we've sent out, as Secretary Blinken noted, 19 messages to American citizens over the course of the last few months," said Psaki. "We’ve also done a great deal of outreach and advertising, providing information for anyone who wants to leave, including the offering of financial assistance in recent weeks for people who want to leave Afghanistan."
"But what I also would note, and this is an important caveat. It is possible there could be Americans who have not yet contacted us who we don't know about. And that's why we want to leave optionality because of our responsibility to help these Americans depart," Psaki continued.
Psaki was then questioned about the contingency plans that President Joe Biden had asked for, to which she clarifying that the contingency plans and the removal of Americans past the withdrawal date are separate.
"So earlier, you said that the administration is looking at a range of options to get Americans out after the 31st. And then I believe you said that the President did receive the contingencies he had asked for," Talcott asked.
"I would put those in two different categories, because the contingency plans he requested would be for optionality to stay longer than the 31st," said Psaki. "That was something he asked for. I'm talking about beyond when the military leaves for the option of allowing Americans to depart or others who apply who are eligible for programs."
"So is there currently a set contingency specifically for Americans left in the country after August 31? Or is that still being worked out?" Talcott asked.
"Okay, so I want to make sure I'm not confusing anyone," Psaki responded. "So the contingency plans the president requested was to have maximum optionality given there are a range of factors, including the threat of ISIS K, which is very much on his mind, and a threat to our us men and women who are serving, including the need for the Taliban to continue to coordinate that is about staying longer than the 31st."
"Those are the contingency plans," she stressed.
"I also spoke to, and Secretary Blinken also spoke to the fact that we were we are also looking for options, post the departure of our military presence to allow for Americans and others who are eligible to programs to evacuate," Psaki added. "That is something we're working through and having discussions about and as we have more to update, we will provide that too, but I would look at them as two separate things."
Psaki expressed a similar statement in a press conference yesterday, when asked a similar question regarding efforts to get Americans out of Afghanistan after August 31.
"Our commitment continues to be to US citizens, if they want to leave, we will get them out," said Psaki.
"It doesn’t matter what date?" the reporter pressed.
"Again, we expect there could be some, but I’m not going to get into it further," Psaki noted.
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