Leaving Afghanistan: What happens to the U.S. citizens left there?

While the last U.S. military forces left Afghanistan on Monday, hundreds of American citizens and thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. fight the Taliban remain in the country.

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Some stayed by choice, the others could not get to the airport in Kabul where U.S. flights were taking those who wanted to go.

U.S. military and coalition flights evacuated more than 123,000 civilians since the end of July. But what happens to those who could not get out? How many are still in the country? What did the U.S promise?

Here’s what we know now.

What happens to the Americans left in Afghanistan?

From Aug. 14 to Aug. 31, the United States evacuated more than 5,500 U.S. citizens. However, a small number of Americans either decided to stay in Afghanistan or were unable to get to the airport to be processed and get on a departing flight.

So what happens next for those U.S. citizens?

It depends.

If they want to stay in Afghanistan, how they will be treated by the Taliban is not known.

If they want to leave the country, the Biden administration has said that they are relying on the promise of the Taliban to continue to allow safe passage for those looking to go.

“We will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Monday. “The Taliban is committed to let anyone with proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner. They said this privately and publicly many times. On Friday, a senior Taliban official said it again on television and radio. And I quote: ‘Any Afghans may leave the country, including those who worked for Americans if they want and for whatever reason there may be.’”

On Monday, President Joe Biden said that Blinken will work to secure “continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan.”

Blinken said the U.S. is working with Qatar and Turkey to allow a small number of daily charter flights to fly out of the Kabul airport. There was no date announced for when those flights may take place.

Another option for those wishing to leave may be by a land route to a neighboring country. Some in the administration have talked about creating a “safe corridor” that would allow Americans and possibly Afghans who wish to leave a way out.

According to Blinken, consular and diplomatic efforts will be conducted from Doha, Qatar.

But “we have no illusion that any of this will be easy or rapid,” Blinken said. “This will be an entirely different phase from the evacuation that just concluded.”

How many Americans are left in Afghanistan?

Different government officials have given different answers to exactly how many Americans remain in Afghanistan.

Last week Blinken said there were about 6,000 Americans including U.S. citizens and dual citizens, or people with both U.S. and Afghanistan citizenship, looking to leave the country. Some with U.S. citizenship have family in Afghanistan and do not want to leave them there.

The military evacuated 5,500 U.S. citizens, leaving 500 people who had been provided by the U.S. embassy “specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely.”

By Monday, government officials said the number of those wanting to leave who had not made their way to the airport was around 200, with the other 300 either not in contact with State Department officials or who changed their mind about leaving.

“We believe there are still a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. We’re trying to determine exactly how many,” Blinken said Monday.

U.S. Central Command leader Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters during a briefing Monday afternoon in Washington that the Americans who wanted to leave and who were not evacuated number in the “very low hundreds.”

No American citizens made it out on the last five flights out of Kabul, McKenzie said Monday, noting that “although we continued our outreach...none of them made it to the airport.”

What happens to the Afghan interpreters and others who helped Americans during the 20 years of war?

Thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. military during the past 20 years were left behind in Afghanistan.

They are likely to be targets of reprisals from the Taliban.

A joint statement issued by the U.S., Britain and other countries say that the Taliban has vowed to allow all foreign nationals and Afghan citizens with travel authorization from another country to leave Afghanistan.

However, there have been reports of the Taliban going house-to-house looking for those who helped coalition troops.

What did members of the Biden administration and military leaders say about people getting out?

In an interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos on Aug. 18, Biden said that if there were American citizens in the country, “we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”

On Monday, Biden said in a statement, “The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “Our message to those Americans is that after August 31, we will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident.

“And yes, we will ensure the safe passage of those Afghans who helped us to continue coming out after the 31st of August.”

In his comments on Monday, McKenzie said, “The diplomatic sequel to that (the evacuation) will now begin. And I believe our Department of State is going to work very hard to allow any American citizens that are left, and we think the citizens that were not brought out number in the low, very low hundreds — I believe that we’re going to be able to get those people out.”

He added, “I think we’re also going to negotiate very hard, very aggressively, to get our other Afghan partners out. The military phase is over, but our desire to bring these people out remains as intense as it was before.”

Click here for the full transcript of Gen. McKenzie’s remarks.

What are some Republicans saying about the withdrawal from Afghanistan?

What did the Taliban promise?

The Taliban have pledged to allow all foreign nationals and Afghan citizens with travel authorization from another country to leave Afghanistan, according to a joint statement issued by Britain, the United States and other countries on Sunday.