The United States facilitated the departure of four American citizens from Afghanistan via an overland route to a third country, a senior State Department official said Monday.
“Our Embassy greeted the Americans as they crossed the border into the third country,” the official told CNN.
The official confirmed that these are the first four Americans that “we’ve facilitated in this manner” since the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. They are a woman and her three children from Amarillo, Texas, according to Rep. Markwayne Mullin, an Oklahoma Republican, who has been assisting an American non profit-funded group of former special forces, military, contractors and others who are working to get Americans and Special Immigrant Visa holders out of Afghanistan.
Mullin told CNN he had spoken with the woman multiple times Monday, including before and after she had exited Afghanistan. Mullin described the harrowing journey she and her children made on the roads from Kabul to a border crossing, which requires them to pass through more than 20 Taliban checkpoints.
She and her family had been unable to get through a gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul while the US military was still evacuating people from the capital.
They then attempted an escape by airplane from another city in Afghanistan but were unsuccessful.
Mullin said the family had spent 13 hours with the Taliban at a checkpoint near the border, unable to secure passage from the group one day before they were ultimately successful.
He says they were ready to give up and return to Kabul but their American contacts urged them to persist.
The non-profit-funded group he has been assisting alerted the State Department to the presence of the American citizens, according to Mullin.
Reporters traveling with Secretary of State Tony Blinken were told Monday that the Americans “were in good condition” and that the Taliban were aware of their departure and did not impede it.
A State Department official would not confirm specifics of the departure, referring to an earlier statement that CNN reported.
“In order to protect their privacy and preserve the viability of our tactics, we’re not in a position to offer additional information,” the official told CNN.
The Taliban have given assurances that foreigners and Afghans with the appropriate travel documents will be allowed to leave the country.
News of the departure comes nearly a week after the last US troops departed Afghanistan to meet an August 31 deadline and as the Biden administration faces pressure to help the remaining Americans and Afghan allies who helped the US leave the country.
Getting Americans out
White House chief of staff Ron Klain told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday that the Biden administration believes there are close to 100 US citizens left in Afghanistan and that the US will find ways to get any remaining Americans out.
“We are going to find ways to get them – the ones that want to leave – to get them out of Afghanistan. We know many of them have family members, many of them want to stay, but the ones that want to leave, we’re going to get them out,” Klain said on “State of the Union.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last week that the department was “not in a position to speak in any great detail about” the overland routes, adding “but I think it reinforces the point that we are looking at all available options to bring Americans to safety who wish to depart Afghanistan.”
Mullin said his group is still trying to assist additional American citizens in Afghanistan.
“We have 23 more AmCits we are currently trying to get out of Afghanistan and more than likely we will have to take another land route to do so,” Mullin said.
Asked about other Americans attempting to leave the country, Mullin said he believes there are more than the official number of which the State Department is aware.
“Absolutely. We are constantly getting hit up. As more people are realizing our efforts there are a lot of groups in and around Afghanistan doing the same thing,” he said.
Mullin said the groups are in touch as they attempt to help Americans and Afghan allies escape.
The Washington Post reported last week that Mullin had threatened US Embassy staff in Tajikistan, outraged that they would not assist him in carrying a huge amount of money through the country as he attempted to travel to Afghanistan for an unauthorized evacuation effort.
Last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US military and allies evacuated 6,000 American citizens and a “total of more than 124,000 civilians” from Afghanistan over the course of a few weeks after the Taliban took control of the country.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
CNN’s Ellie Kaufman and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.