Biden says U.S. committed to safe passage for last 100-200 Americans left in Afghanistan

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WASHINGTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday said 98% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to do so, and President Joe Biden affirmed that the United States remained committed to helping the remaining 100 to 200 U.S. citizens who had some intention to leave.

Speaking at the White House, Biden told reporters that most of those people were dual citizens and longtime residents, who had earlier decided to stay in the country given their family roots in Afghanistan.

"For those remaining Americans there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out," Biden said.

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In his remarks, he noted that 90% of Americans who were in Afghanistan and wanted to leave were able to leave. The White House later updated a transcript of his remarks to show that the correct figure was 98%.

He said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was leading continued diplomatic efforts to ensure safe passage for any American, Afghan partner or foreign national who wanted to leave Afghanistan after the Aug. 15 takeover by the Islamist Taliban.

Biden said the international community would hold Taliban leaders accountable for their promise to permit freedom of travel.

"The Taliban has made public commitments, broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan, on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans," he said. "We don't take them by their word alone, but by their actions, and we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met."

Biden said the U.S. government had reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan since March, offering to help them leave the country.

After the U.S. military-led evacuations began 17 days ago, U.S. officials reached out again and identified around 5,000 Americans who had decided earlier to stay, but now wanted to leave, he said.

In the end, the president said, more than 5,500 Americans were evacuated, along with thousands of citizens and diplomats from allied countries, as well as 2,500 locally employed staff at the U.S. embassy and their families, and thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others who supported the United States.

(This story officially corrects first and third sentences to show that 98 %, not 90% of Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan managed to, per White House)

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Reporting by Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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