Biden administration national security officials have informed Senate aides that there currently is no plan on how to evacuate US citizens and Afghan allies outside Kabul, the Washington Post first reported.
The news comes as thousands struggle to vacate the country, which fell to the Taliban within just days of US troops withdrawing.
Staffers were told there are logistical issues in bypassing Taliban checkpoints outside Kabul, according to the report.
Officials from the State Department, the Defense Department, the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the group of bipartisan staffers that roughly 10,000 to 15,000 US citizens are still in the country, but could not clarify how many individuals remain outside Kabul.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday there were “certainly thousands” of Americans still in Afghanistan, but that he did not have an “exact count.”
“We think there are certainly thousands of Americans. We don’t have an exact count, I would say somewhere, best guess between 5,000 and 10,000 that are near Kabul,” he said in an interview with CNN, a range 5,000 less than national security officials told the staffers.
State Department press secretary Ned Price said Tuesday that Americans in the region should “shelter in place until and unless you receive a communication from the US Embassy.”
CBS News first reported that the State Department is not guaranteeing security for Americans as they make their trip to the airport.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan would not firmly commit to US troops remaining in Afghanistan until all Americans and US allies are evacuated from the region beyond the Biden administration’s Aug. 31 deadline during a press briefing Tuesday.
Sullivan claimed the Taliban have vowed to allow for the safe passage of Americans and their allies to the airport, adding that they are in talks about the timetable to allow for evacuations.
“We are talking to them about what the exact timetable is for how this will all play out, and I don’t want to negotiate in public on working out the best modality to get the most people out in the most efficient way possible. By and large, what we have found is that people have been able to get to the airport,” he said.
He remained vague on whether the US could trust the Taliban to uphold their commitment.
“There have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten. We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days,” he said.