Jen Psaki pushed back on Tuesday against criticism over her claim at Monday’s press briefing that no Americans are ‘stranded’ in Afghanistan and asked for contact information for those on the ground who aren’t able to get out.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked the White House press secretary what word she would use to classify Americans in Afghanistan who say they are stuck at home and unable to get to the airport for evacuation.
Psaki deflected by explaining the process for which Americans register to let the State Department know they are in a foreign country should there be an emergency.
She also insisted that ‘for months the [State] Department has been telling Americans to leave Afghanistan for their own safety.’
Since the U.S. is ‘committed’ to getting all U.S. citizens out of Afghanistan and is in contact with them, Psaki said they are not ‘stranded.’
The press secretary also said that she would ‘welcome’ contact information from any Americans who are unable to get in contact with the State Department.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pushed back on Tuesday on the criticism over her claim that Americans are ‘not stranded’ in Afghanistan
She posted parts of her answer to a question on stranded Americans on Monday where she said the administration is ‘in touch with’ Americans in Afghanistan
‘What do you say to the American citizen in Kabul that Fox spoke to this morning… she says: ‘We are stranded at home. For four days, three days, we didn’t hear anything from anywhere and they’re saying to the airport but we’re not being given clear guidance. Our emails are getting ignored,’ Doocy asked Psaki.
‘Well why don’t I convey to you exactly what we are doing – and I think what’s important to note that I also said yesterday in the full context of my answer, which I put out today, was that we are committed to bringing Americans home who want to leave and that is the president’s commitment,’ Psaki said.
‘So let me explain to you how our process works,’ she continued. ‘It is our responsibility and our role to work with and help American citizens who want to leave. In recent days they have reached out to every American citizen registered in Afghanistan multiple times.’
‘If we are not in touch with this individual, give me their contact information and we will get in touch with them,’ she directed to Doocy, then saying to the rest of reporters in the room: ‘If any of you are hearing from American citizens who can’t reach us, give me their contact information and we will get in contact with them.’
‘You’re saying no Americans are stranded,’ Doocy shot back.
‘This is someone in Kabul who says ‘I am stranded.’ So, is there a better word for somebody who can’t leave the house to get to the airport because Jake Sullivan says ISIS is outside the airport?’ he asked.
‘I would welcome you providing their phone number and we will reach out to them today. And I can assure you of that,’ she again deflected.
During Monday’s White House press conference, Doocy asked about Americans unable to get to the Kabul airport for evacuation from the country.
‘Does the president have a sense that most of the criticism is not of leaving Afghanistan, it’s the way that he has ordered it to happen – by pulling the troops before getting these Americans who are now stranded. Does he have a sense of that?’ Doocy asked.
‘First of all, I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not.,’ Psaki shot back.
Those comments were widely criticized by those who point to the thousands of Americans who are still in Kabul and President Joe Biden’s reiteration on Tuesday that all U.S. military presence will be out of Afghanistan by August 31 – even if that means leaving U.S. citizens behind.
The White House press secretary posted on Twitter more context to her comments.
‘Add[itiona]l context on American citizens of what I said: ‘We are committed to bringing Americans, who want to come home, home. We are in touch with them via phone, via text, via e-mail, via any way that we can possibly reach Americans to get them home if they want to return home… we are not leaving Americans who want to return home. We are going to bring them home. And I think that’s important for the American public to hear and understand.’
Doocy tried to get more context from Psaki during the briefing on Monday.
She said at the Monday briefing it’s ‘irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not’
Americans have expressed obstacles getting to the Kabul airport – currently the only way to be evacuated from Afghanistan by the military. Here U.S. military stands guard near the airport
‘There are no Americans stranded,’ is the White House’s official position on what’s happening in Afghanistan right now?’ Doocy pushed the press secretary.
‘I’m just calling you out for saying that we are standing Americans in Afghanistan when I said – we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home. We are going to bring them home,’ Psaki said.
The deflection in claiming Americans will get out if they want to leads to more questions of how they are supposed to evacuate in the next 11 days as the Taliban maintains control of Kabul and the areas around the airport.
Americans have expressed troubles getting through Taliban checkpoints to the airport and have detailed making it to the gates and not being let through.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also revealed over the weekend that U.S. citizens still stuck in Afghanistan are being beaten and assaulted by Taliban fighters as they try to flee to the airport.
Biden previously said he wasn’t ruling out staying in Afghanistan past the August 31 deadline to make sure all Americans were evacuated, but reversed that possibility on Tuesday by insisting all forces will be out of the country by the end of the month.
The Taliban said if any U.S. forces are still in Afghanistan after August there will be ‘consequences’.
Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby declined to say during Tuesday’s briefing how many Americans have been evacuated from Afghanistan, saying that ‘the number literally changes almost by the hour.’
The White House, DoD and State Department all continue to deflect when asked how many Americans are on the ground in Afghanistan and how many still need evacuating.