White House Press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that the Biden administration is working on options for people still wishing to leave Afghanistan after August 31st, when the U.S. military is expected to be withdrawn from Kabul.
Watch the briefing in the video player above.
“Our expectation and the expectation of the international community is that people who want to leave Afghanistan after the U.S. military depart should be able to do so,” she told reporters.
Since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on Aug. 14, more than 82,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan in one of the largest U.S. airlifts in history.
While the pace has picked up in recent days, it’s still a chaotic scramble as people seek to escape.
President Joe Biden set an Aug. 31 deadline to complete the U.S.-led evacuation, but the president has also asked for contingency plans in case the U.S. still needs to get people out beyond that date.
Psaki said the Biden administration suspects many of the estimated 1,000 Americans remaining inside the country are dual American-Afghan nationals.
“I know that is hard for us to understand as we’re looking at the images, but for many of these Afghans, this is their home.”
Psaki said it was “absolutely” the U.S.’s responsibility to reach out to those people, “but it is also their personal decision on whether they want to depart.”
Psaki also admonished two members of Congress following their surprise visit to Afghanistan this week, which diverted resources from the U.S.’s chaotic withdrawal and enraged military leaders.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., flew in on a charter Tuesday and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours before flying out on a military plane.
Psaki said the administration was not made aware of the trip in advance and said the guidance to lawmakers was the same as it was to all Americans. “This is not the time to travel to Afghanistan,” she said.
The congressmen now face criticism for showboating as politicians – which they vehemently deny – while adding needless confusion to a dire situation.
But they also tapped into a frustration of those who feel that standing by and doing nothing is also not an option.
Both are military veterans, with backgrounds in the region.
Moulton, a Marine who has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq War, served multiple tours in Iraq.
Meijer was deployed as part of the Army Reserves and later worked in Afghanistan at a nongovernmental organization providing aid. Moulton serves on the House Armed Services Committee and Meijer is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Psaki was also questioned about a Wall Street Journal report that private contractor and former Navy SEAL Erik Prince was offering chartered flights out of Afghanistan at $6,500 U.S. dollars a seat.
“I don’t think any human being who has a heart and soul would support efforts to profit off of people’s agony and pain as they try to depart a country and fearing for their lives,” she said.