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Top US diplomat Blinken says likely less than 1,000 US citizens still in Afghanistan

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The United States has evacuated at least 4,500 US citizens and their families from Afghanistan since mid-August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, adding that Washington was “aggressively” reaching out to around 1,000 remaining contacts.

Blinken told a news conference there was no deadline on the effort to help people who want to leave Afghanistan, both Americans and others, and that that effort would continue “as long as it takes.”

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When the US evacuation effort began, there were as many as 6,000 American citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, based on a US analysis, Blinken said. The remaining contacts now number around 1,000.

“For the remaining roughly 1,000 contacts that we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day, through multiple channels of communication,” Blinken said.

“From this list of approximately 1,000, we believe the number of Americans actively seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan is lower, likely significantly lower,” he said, cautioning repeatedly that the numbers could be changing every hour.

He also said 45 percent to 46 percent of the more than 82,000 people who have so far been evacuated have been women and children.

Western countries rushed to evacuate people from Afghanistan with less than a week left until all foreign troops leave, acknowledging that many Afghans who helped them will be left behind to an uncertain fate under the Taliban.

Although the airlift is due to last until Tuesday, the United States military said it will shift its focus in the final two days from assisting fleeing civilians to evacuating its own troops.

Read more: Biden adamant on Aug. 31 withdrawal from Afghanistan but asks for contingency plans