U.S. Struggles to Count Its Citizens in Afghanistan as Biden Weighs Withdrawal Delay


President Biden acknowledged the difficulty of getting thousands out of Afghanistan during a news conference Sunday. He also said U.S. airlines will help with evacuation efforts from staging centers in Europe and the Middle East. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

With logistics and conditions at the Kabul international airport growing more dire, the Biden administration on Tuesday is scheduled to discuss with allies a withdrawal from Afghanistan beyond an Aug. 31 deadline that left just eight days to evacuate thousands of people.

Compounding the problem are the challenges borne of the more rapid than expected Taliban takeover. The State Department doesn’t know exactly how many Americans are left on the ground, although some have estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 were there when the evacuations began, several U.S. officials said.

President Biden on Tuesday will meet virtually with the leaders of the Group of Seven leading nations to discuss coordination and evacuation plans, as well as the need for humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees. On Sunday, Mr. Biden said he and his military advisers were discussing extending the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

In response, the Taliban, through direct talks with the U.S. in Kabul, said it wouldn’t recognize any extension, nor would it assure that forces that stay in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31 wouldn’t be subject to attack.

Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Monday that the number of Americans on the ground is hard to assess because many Americans didn’t register with the embassy when they arrived in Afghanistan, and many didn’t deregister when they left. “Now, it’s our responsibility to find them,” Mr. Sullivan said.